Vermont governor urges people not to be used as ‘pawns’

Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday urged Vermonters who are considering joining protests in the run-up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden not to be used as “pawns” by extremists who are trying to undermine democracy and overthrow the government.

The Republican governor, speaking at one of his regular news briefings, said he and the state’s law enforcement community are aware that extremists have called for armed protests in all 50 state capitals this Sunday and on Jan. 20, inauguration day.

But he said they were not aware of any specific threats in Vermont.

Scott said it is anyone’s First Amendment right to protest to make their feelings known.

But “don’t be used as a pawn by some of these extreme groups that are planning these protests throughout our nation to undermine our democracy, to overthrow the government,” he said.

Scott said the people who are planning the protests are using people, just as they used people last week when an insurrectionist mob overran the Capitol in Washington.

“They used them in Washington, and they’ll use them in the next few days,” Scott said.

Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling reiterated that officials knew of the general threat, but that the law enforcement community is unaware of any specific threat against Vermont.

Schirling said state law enforcement officials have been in contact with their federal counterparts. He wouldn’t be specific about any response plans.

“There are those who demonstrated last week their intent on insurrection, and we don’t want as Vermonters to fall into a trap of coming and inadvertently supporting that,” Schirling said.

“While we don’t script where and when folks should exercise their First Amendment rights, we would ask that people think twice about whether these two days that have been identified, the 17th and the 20th, are the times to do that,” he said.

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