Legislators receive dozens of troubling messages following D.C. riots

Matt Romei
Capitol Police Chief Matt Romei checked legislators entering the Statehouse when the Senate convened on March 24, 2020. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

In the days following last week’s riot in Washington, D.C., and as state law enforcement officials prepare for a possible armed rally at the Montpelier Statehouse this weekend, Vermont legislators have flagged dozens of messages for the Capitol Police to review.  

Between Sunday and Tuesday alone, Matthew Romei, chief of the Capitol Police, estimated that lawmakers forwarded close to 40 emails to his staff. So far, none have risen to the level of what he would deem a “threat or criminal behavior.” 

Some emails relate to the recent developments in Washington, D.C., while others have come in response to the resolution legislators passed last week, calling for President Donald Trump to resign, Romei said. 

“I am aware of a couple of legislators that have had messages directed at them that were, you know, aggressive, but not criminal, concerning that resolution, concerning some other things that are going on,” Romei said. 

“And we always get some of that traffic anytime the Legislature is doing something controversial,” he said.

The messages came after Trump supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. 

Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, D-Windham, said some legislators who supported last week’s resolution have received screenshots of posts online that don’t contain violent threats, but do contain troubling language. 

“It’s not a direct threat of violence but it’s like ‘We’re watching you, we know who you are, we’re not gonna forget. We know you’re not real patriots,’ and couched in this language that we saw in D.C. that has been actualized much more violently than just it being words,” she said. 

“I think everybody’s worried about what an escalation would look like and how quickly it might happen,” Balint said of the messages.

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She said she’s heard directly from four state senators who have received messages — mostly Republicans who supported last week’s resolution. However, Senate Minority Leader Randy Brock, R-Franklin, and House Minority Pattie McCoy, R-Poultney, both said they were not aware of Republicans receiving such communications. 

In the wake of the riots last week, and the expectation of protests in Montpelier this weekend, lawmakers will receive a briefing on security on Thursday from Michael Schirling, commissioner of Vermont’s Department of Public Safety. 

“A number of legislators had said they really need to know how our law enforcement agencies are sharing information, and what we can do as public officials to be vigilant and protect ourselves,” Balint said. 

Although the FBI issued a warning about planned armed protests in Montpelier on Sunday, they’re still not certain of what might happen this weekend. 

“I’ll be quite honest with you, we’re really not sure what we’re gonna get on Sunday,” Romei said. “But you know, whatever we get, we’ll be prepared to deal with it.” 

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Xander Landen

About Xander

Xander Landen is VTDigger's political reporter. He previously worked at the Keene Sentinel covering crime, courts and local government. Xander got his start in public radio, writing and producing stories for NPR affiliates including WBUR in Boston and WNYC in New York. While at WNYC, he contributed to an award-winning investigation of how police departments shield misconduct records from the public. He is a graduate of Tufts University and his work has also appeared in PBS NewsHour and The Christian Science Monitor.

Email: [email protected]

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