Crime and Justice

Vermont Conversation: Is Vermont fertile ground for white extremists?

The residence of Eric Grenier at 818 High Pond Road in Brandon seen on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.

An extremist movement led by angry and entitled white men is spreading throughout the country, and Vermont is providing fertile ground for their violent hatred.

That’s the contention of Michael Shank, a resident of Brandon, who says he is moving in order to escape armed white extremists who have been harassing him and have been tolerated by local authorities. Shank made his case in an op-ed article for USA Today on Aug. 4, titled: “White extremism is winning in my Vermont town. I’m selling my animal sanctuary and moving.”

On Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, Shank’s neighbor, Eric Grenier, a convicted felon, was arrested on weapons charges. Shank has accused Grenier of making death threats.

Shank writes that white extremists have “bullied countless people of color in Vermont, who had to flee their communities because it became increasingly hostile and unsafe for them. And now it’s pushing me out, too.”

Shank tells The Vermont Conversation, “Not only are people unsafe in our communities … but they are unsafe in terms of who they turn to for protection…. The very people who are supposed to protect them aren’t protecting them.” He cites recent reports about racial disparities in policing in Vermont that show that Black and Hispanic drivers are three to four times more likely to be searched by police during traffic stops — despite having a lower “hit rate” for contraband.

The bias that pervades policing has created a permissive environment for racial harassment and white extremism to flourish, says Shank. “Vermont has a leadership problem on this issue,” he asserts. “We are allowing the racism to metastasize.”

Shank has also worked in Afghanistan as a senior policy adviser to former California Rep. Mike Honda, and he discusses what led to the Taliban retaking the country.

Michael Shank is communications director for the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance. He is also an adjunct faculty member at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs.

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David Goodman

About David

David Goodman is an award-winning journalist and the author of a dozen books, including four New York Times bestsellers that he co-authored with his sister, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. His work has appeared in Mother Jones, New York Times, Outside, Boston Globe and other publications. He is the host of The Vermont Conversation, a VTDigger podcast featuring in-depth interviews about local and national topics. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesday at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.

Email: [email protected]

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