At a press conference, Monday, Vermont’s chief law enforcement officer almost completed one of the greatest performances of whitesplaining in recent history as he announced that he wouldn’t file charges against a white nationalist who allegedly stalked, harassed and terrified one of the state’s only black lawmakers.
As Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan described the voluminous evidence, he pointed out that he didn’t have enough evidence. He explained how the hate speech was a matter of free speech. He explained that the harassment against the black family was bad, but that it wasn’t a crime. All the while, the woman was the target of the incessant acts of hate stood beside him as he shucked and jived.
Then the racists showed up.
According to WNYT, On Monday, Vermont Attorney General T.J Donovan held a press conference at the Congregation Beth El synagogue in Bennington, Vt. to announce that, instead of filing charges, he would instead release a 10-page report on the racial harassment of former State Rep. Kiah Morris, the state’s only black woman state representative who resigned in September after allegedly being harangued by white supremacist Max Misch, who describes himself the man who “be representin dem white muhfuckaz of Bennington.”
Seven Days Vermont reports:
The press conference went off the rails when Bennington resident Max Misch entered the room as Morris answered a television reporter’s question about the AG’s probe. Misch had been subject to a yearlong protective order in 2016 prohibiting him from contacting Morris over a series of racist tweets, messages and online comments he aimed at her.
Misch wore a black long-sleeve shirt bearing the image of alt-right icon Pepe the Frog. Many in the room began shouting “No, no, no!” and “Out!” when he arrived.
“This is not safe,” one person shouted. “Why is this asshole allowed to come in here?” someone else in the crowd said.
“Because it’s America,” another attendee replied. “We have to listen to everyone, whether we like it or not. But we don’t have to put up with it.”
Also in attendance was Kevin Hoyt, a failed Republican candidate who has accused Morris and her husband of inciting others to paint him as a Nazi. Hoyt says he is a victim of reverse racism after his request for a stalking order of protection against Morris’ husband was rejected by a judge. The hunting expert and gun advocate has repeatedly insinuated that Morris and her husband were fabricating their claims to make Vermont look like a state that tolerates racism.
“I call bullshit on Ms. Morris!” yelled Hoyt. “As a political opponent who was accused of being a Nazi, I think we’re hearing one side of the story ... I was called a Nazi, I was called a white supremacist. Obviously, racism exists in Vermont ... I question to what degree, though.”
After winning a House seat in the state legislature, Morris gave up her re-election bid before resigning in September, citing her husband’s open-heart surgery combined with Hoyt and Misch’s continued online campaign of harassment. Citing tweets that told her to “Go back to Africa, it’s the only place you’ll ever be safe,” The Attorney general’s report listed forty-eight separate racial incidents where Morris had been threatened and attacked, including:
- A message to Morris’ husband informing him that he should put his wife “in her place,” or the messenger would do it for him;
- A tweet that read: “You will never silence me. Every time you attend a political rally at the Four Corners or another local venue and I’m aware of the event, I will troll the hell out of you and the other subversives there. Maybe I’ll bring a friend or three with me too;”
- Someone paintballing Morris’ car and spray painting a swastika on a tree near Morris’ home;
- Another tweet said, “Stop pushing ‘social justice’ on your nearly entirely White constituency in Bennington, VT. Go back to Chicago if you want to engage in SJW [Social Justice Warrior] bullshit. We will continue to fight against your efforts to make our town/state look more like your mongrel son;”
- Multiple reports to police of strange men and suspicious vehicles in the cemetery behind Morris’ home;
- A break-in at the Morris home where Morris’ husband’s neckties were stolen and found in the cemetery (Police did not fingerprint or swab the crime scene);
- Morris’ child care provider reporting a man sitting in a car outside the home filming the Morris residence;
Donovan concluded that there was not enough evidence to charge Misch with any crimes, noting that there was a lack of evidence. “No Vermont court has specifically considered whether communications like those sent to Ms. Morris could be construed as ‘true threats,’” Donovan’s findings read, adding:
In this case, the online communications that were sent to Ms. Morris by Max Misch and others were clearly racist and extremely offensive However, the First Amendment does not make speech sanctionable merely because its content is objectionable. The question here is whether the messages, in context, were communicating a serious expression of an intent to harm Ms. Morris or her family. The fact that a number of messages were directed at her role as an elected official raises the issue of whether they were intended to express political opposition through the use of hyperbole and insult, as noted in the case law above. Therefore, there appears to be insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges under Vermont law.
“Kiah Morris was a victim of racial harassment. Relatively few Vermonters have had any of these experiences, and very few have had these experiences in the context of vicious racial harassment,” Donovan said, according to the Washington Post. But, he added, “the Constitution does not permit us to prosecute racist speech because we find it offensive.”
Meanwhile, Morris stood in the face of her harassers and the attorney general, noting that law enforcement officers had shrugged off her claims.
“For two years, we lived in my husband’s childhood home, feeling unsafe, never sleeping peacefully because we had to be vigilant,” said Morris, “We did everything we were told to do. We reported as we should, held nothing back and trusted in a system that was insufficient and inept at addressing and repairing the harm done.”
So there you have it. It was just political expression and free speech, which is aptly expressed in the Vermont state motto:
Freedom and Unity.