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Several people gathered in a small park, across the street from the Putney General Store, in Putney, Vt., as they hold a vigil on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, to remember George Floyd, a man who was killed by Derek Chauvin, a Minnesota police officer, a year ago today.

PUTNEY — For more than nine minutes Tuesday evening, more than three dozen people knelt in silence in honor and memory of George Floyd, a Black man no one knew but all mourned.

Rep. Michael Mrowicki, D-Windham 4, organized the silent vigil to commemorate Floyd’s murder a year ago, under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer who last month was found guilty of Floyd’s murder.

The murder set off a re-examination of racism in the country and Vermont, as well as police tactics and training.

After a few minutes of subdued talk among the residents who gathered in the center of Putney, Rep. Michelle Bos-Lun, D-Windham 4, announced she would mark off nine minutes. Most in the gathering knelt, and all fell silent.

Some cars drove by on the gentle late spring evening and honked and waved in support.

Windham County Sheriff Mark Anderson was one of those who knelt.

Anderson, whose department serves the town of Putney, said he was there in a personal capacity. He said he fully supported and implemented training for his department and others.

There are no people of color on the 20-person department, he said, and only one woman, Jessica Fellows, who patrols Putney.

Diversity is an elusive goal, he said. “I want more,” he said.

There is nobody of color “or of any race,” Anderson said, saying he was committed to modernizing the department and its practices, including a de-escalation policy, which he said emphasizes “verbal judo” rather than use of force.

Putney Select Board member Aileen Chute came with her two children and her mother, Susan Ruggles.

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“I thought it was important to stand in solidarity. Nine minutes is a long time. I never knelt for nine minutes before,” said Chute, noting that her children wanted to come to the vigil, saying Sydney, 14, and Lauren, 11, are “budding activists.”

The Chute family moved to Putney in 2017 from New Hampshire, attracted by its progressive reputation.

Chute said she thought the recent vandalism to the Black Lives Matter mural painted in front of the Putney Central School was a result of the isolation from the coronavirus pandemic.

Much of the social interaction has been via social media and Zoom, said Chute, and people are not having face-to-face discussions about these issues.

“We’ll come back together as a community,” said Chute.

Deirdre Hiam was the only woman of color to attend the vigil. Hiam came with her husband and her two children, and she said in the 1 1/2 years since they moved to Putney from Amherst, Mass., they have not encountered racism.

There are few families of color in Putney, said Hiam, who works as a nurse practitioner at Sojourns, the alternative health clinic in Westminster.

“It’s a nice place,” she said. “I haven’t encountered any overt racism,” she said. “Vermont has been a real nice place for me.”

Nancy Braus, a longtime activist from Putney, said she came to fight hate, which she said, is the enemy of democracy.

Braus said she was “overwhelmingly disgusted by the hatred coming out of the US.”

She said the vigil was to show “love and caring for George Floyd.”

“Hate does not go well with democracy,” she said. “I feel I need to take every opportunity to speak up as a white person, speaking up against racial hatred.”



Photographer / Multimedia Editor

Has been working as a photojournalist since 2007, before moving into newspapers, he worked with an NGO called Project HOPE. He then went to work for the Press and Sun-Bulletin in New York, and then in New England working for the Brattleboro Reformer.