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South Burlington residents call for end to racism

Isaiah Hines
Khrishna Hines, left, and her son, Isaiah Hines, of South Burlington, listen to speakers at a candlelight vigil in South Burlington Wednesday evening. Isaiah Hines, who is the student member of the South Burlington School Board, was the force behind the school’s changing its Rebels mascot. Photo by Gail Callahan/VTDigger

SOUTH BURLINGTON — About four dozen people attended a candlelight vigil Wednesday in front of City Hall, promoting a message of compassion, forgiveness and tolerance.

Residents sought forgiveness for Dan Emmons, the South Burlington man arraigned on stalking South Burlington High School senior Isaiah Hines, and Josiah Leach, 18, of South Burlington. Leach was arrested Friday and has been accused of threatening to injure South Burlington High School students and faculty.

Vicki Garrison, organizer of the event, told the crowd “even people who are causing a lot of pain in the community deserve our forgiveness.”

Garrison’s message was echoed by 18-year-old Hines and other speakers.

Hines spearheaded the effort to drop the Rebel nickname from sports uniforms and scoreboards, saying that its association goes back to the racist history of the Confederacy.

Hines is a student representative on the South Burlington School Board. He was allegedly stalked by Dan Emmons, a South Burlington resident opposed to the name change. Emmons pleaded not guilty in court earlier this month to the charge. He is slated to appear in court next month.

South Burlington vigil poster
A sign at the South Burlington candlelight vigil at the high school Wednesday evening. Photo by Gail Callahan/VTDigger

Hines was called to join the speakers on a small, grassy hill above the attendees. Andrea  Viets, a Burlington resident, thanked Hines for his leadership on the Rebel name change.

“Isaiah stepped forward in courage and clarity, and that’s harder for teenagers than it is for adults,” Viets said.

Several of the vigil’s speakers told Hines that he “did all of our ancestors proud.”

During various parts of the vigil, Hines and his mother, Khrishna Hines, tightly clasped each other’s hands, with tears filling their eyes. Khrishna Hines said she was “absolutely” proud of her son’s advocacy work.

When it was Peter Lumholdt’s turn to take the microphone, the South Burlington High School senior said he “wasn’t proud to admit” that at one time he opposed the Rebel name change.

The controversial move away from the school nickname has splintered the community as the school district has grappled with the failure of two proposed school budgets and threats of violence.

Speakers at the vigil emphasized that while the Rebel name change was successful, that victory doesn’t erase the sting of pain inflicted by racism. “It’s not about the Rebel name, it’s about South Burlington’s future and our children’s future,” said Champlain Area NAACP President Mary Brown-Guillory. “We’re starting a new journey together.”

Brown-Guillory prayed out loud during the vigil, asking for an end to hatred and the end of violence. “I’m a spiritual being, and I’m going  to ask you to join me in prayer,” she said.

As the evening wore on, vigil speakers and those attending the event formed a circle and sang, “We Shall Overcome,” a gospel hymn that came to wider prominence as a protest song and a key anthem of the civil rights movement.

Michael Hill Jr.
Michael Hill Jr. attends the candlelight vigil Wednesday at South Burlington High School. Photo by Gail Callahan/VTDigger

Several feet away, two South Burlington Police officers silently watched the vigil. Lt. Shawn Demore said law enforcement was asked to be present at the event by vigil organizers.

Another unity event was held Wednesday night by the Rebel Alliance group at the South Burlington Police Department to thank police and the FBI for their efforts last week when threats prompted the early release for the high school and eventual closing of South Burlington School District schools last Friday.

On a public Facebook account said to be operated by the group, photos depicted people gathering at the Gregory Drive station.

Phone calls seeking comment from Jason Havers, who is believed to have posted the photos on the Facebook page, and to Marcia Coery went unreturned. South Burlington residents comment on the social media account said to be overseen by the Rebel Alliance group.

Another vigil is slated for May 2 at 11 a.m. near South Burlington High School. It will be sponsored by Black Lives Matter.

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Gail Callahan

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  • Neil Johnson

    How to be a unifier and how to be a divider. There is a difference and our communities are unwittingly and with good intentions be played. We aren’t as a society even being educated on this properly. The foundation of our country is to come together in peace and harmony, our goal clearly stated to be a more perfect union.

    Community Organizer? What is the position, for peace or division? These goals of the community organizer are inherently in conflict with the goal of a more perfect union. If you haven’t read rules for radicals and you are at all involved in this foray, then you are woefully ignorant, as was I until about a year ago.

    Now I could take offense upon any cross symbol, that I see everyday across our nation. It is a heinous tortuous device used to torture Christians and suppress telling others of Jesus Christ, perhaps the biggest rebel in history. Methodist movements to stop slavery, the book of Philemon (New Testament) that 2,000 years ago was saying STOP the slavery, which states we are all equal, have been suppressed by the cross, torture of crucifixion and as we see daily; beheadings in the middle east for the soul reason you follow the teachings of Love and Peace espoused by Jesus Christ.

    I would be accurate in my assessment and righteous to ask all those who sport a cross, please remove them. But that is only one definition and interpretation. There are many others reasons to support the cross and it’s symbol.

    While some are rightfully offended by the term Rebel, it is a very, very narrow interpretation. Other very important rebels might find offence, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Muhammed Ali, Gandhi, Jesus Christ, George Washington, Our founding fathers, John F. Kennedy, the list is long and they truly represent the very heart, soul and definition of Rebel.

    These men and women could have been proudly portrayed next to the Rebel flag in South Burlington gym, bringing about peace, unity and love for our fellow brothers. That’s the true sign of a rebel, just like Martin Luther King. Perhaps this would have brought us together. Humans have a natural tendency to covet pride and assume each person is right, the selfish tendency to say my view is the correct view. We naturally want to fight for our rights. You’ll find the biggest most venerated Rebels are those that brought a change in society through peace.

    Hopefully we can heal, come together in love, unity and peace. It will not come our way via community organizing, a community organizer is a radical, a hell raiser, it’s on the cover of Alinksys’ book for crying out loud.

    Many and the more famous rebels fight for a just cause and a more perfect union, the end results, process and goals which are in direct opposition of the community organizer.

    We need to know the difference, we need to know more history.

    • Paul Richards

      The most prominent “community organizer” of late was obama and he turned out to be, in all actuality, the biggest divider that ever served the presidency. The wide web that he cast still continues to fester and grow.
      Agreed; read the book “Rules for Radicals” and it becomes abundantly clear what his intentions have always been.

  • Justin Boland

    It would be encouraging if there was some discussion about the fact Josiah Leach supported the name change and was sending these threats to make the opposition look like monsters. The “threats of violence” were coming from their own side. Have a conversation with young activists about tradecraft and optics, or they’ll keep scoring own goals in their eagerness to create publicity.

    • Neil Johnson

      If so, this fits the play book and is a standard tactic used by those who read and follow Saul Alinsky. Which goes back to the whole premise of a community organizer is not to bring peace, specifically they are to divide and use any tactic to do it. Without division you have no power, they are looking to gain power and money, not my words Alinsky’s words.

      His opening subtitle on page 4 start with “The life of man upon earth is warfare…. and he misquotes this as a bible verse from Job. After checking all versions of the bible, NONE state this. That’s how he starts his book. As a country we are looking for a more perfect union.

      I bet those supporting the rebel name would have no issue with using Rosa Parks as a new mascot, or any of the other great rebels. They should all make up t-shirts with the faces of these rebels to let everyone know they are not racist and those who feel uncomfortable should rest at ease. Hell, you could have several mascots, which would be even more inclusive.

    • John Klar

      I find it revealing that this likelihood has been completely avoided by the media, and by the activists. The school name was not originated with racist intent: labeling it thus retroactively is racist. No accountability.

  • Jamie Carter

    “Hines spearheaded the effort to drop the Rebel nickname from sports
    uniforms and scoreboards, saying that its association goes back to the
    racist history of the Confederacy.”

    Actually it goes even further back then that… there was a group of rebels that started a war, right by here actually that led to the formation of this country that you are citizen. And one could currently use it to describe many of the people that are standing up and fighting for gay rights, immigration causes, reproductive rights, or even those calling for a Verexit. Rebels throughout history have almost been entirely revered and respected. Heck, even the “Rebel Alliance” is the good side in Star Wars.

    So I have to ask, why do you get to choose what the word is associated with? Should we eliminate the word, stop it from being printed in the Dictionary? Being spoken?

    I love the photo in this article… ” Dear Racism, I am not my grandparents.”

    Neither am I.

  • Kim Hebert

    We are changing the names of sports team, streets and bridges
    and we are removing monuments which were built to honor fallen soldiers. To what end do we do these things? Are we then supposed to bow our heads in shame for the remainder of our days? These are not things that will unite us, only God can do that and I am afraid he isn’t very popular at the moment either.