Crime and Justice

Police investigate harassment of migrant workers

An activist group alleges that a group of people surrounded farmworkers’ homes in Addison County, shouting insults and firing guns.

Migrant Justice has called on police to investigate.

Following publication of the incidents on social media, Vermont State Police announced Tuesday that troopers have been investigating multiple incidents and vandalism on farms and at nearby residences near Bridport over the past three weeks.

Migrant Justice posted on Facebook Monday that for multiple nights, farmworkers’ houses have been surrounded by a group of people who yelled insults, broke windows and air-conditioning units. According to the post, the group also fired guns into the air.

Marita Canedo of Migrant Justice said that groups of people surrounded multiple houses on several nights earlier this month.

“It’s about emotional damage,” Canedo said.

Migrant Justice said after a report was filed that identified someone involved in the group, police responded it “was a drunken act where the person lost control of their actions.”

Another incident happened earlier this week, according to Canedo, when a Migrant Justice organizer visited farmworkers in the same area and had a tense exchange with someone at the farm and was asked to leave. After visiting with farmworkers, he found that his tires were flat. Migrant Justice said there was also a threatening call to their office.

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Canedo said Migrant Justice is concerned about the way police responded to a “vulnerable” population, that is often reluctant to contact law enforcement because of concerns about immigration status.

“It’s unfortunate that people are feeling afraid to call the police and they don’t trust the police,” she said.

In a response to the Migrant Justice post Tuesday, Vermont State Police wrote that troopers based at the New Haven Barracks have been “actively investigating” the incidents over the past three weeks. They wrote that police have been updating the local state’s attorney on the status of the case and are following up on several leads.

In a separate news release Tuesday, Vermont State Police said troopers at the New Haven Barracks have been investigating multiple “suspicious incidents and vandalisms” around farm fields, on farms and at nearby residences.

“Through investigation, it appears that many of the incidents are related and committed by the same individuals,” police said in a statement.

Police say they have identified potential suspects.

They request that anybody with information about the incidents contact Trooper Mae Murdock at (802) 388-4919.

Canedo said that police have been in better communication since the group shared details about the incidents on Facebook. As of Tuesday night, the post had been shared more than 1,300 times.

She said there is a greater need to address harassment and discrimination in Vermont.

“There is a lot to do in Vermont with fighting racism,” Canedo said.

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Elizabeth Hewitt

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