Another View: Small town, high minds

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Last week a protest for social justice in St. Johnsbury got a little rowdy.

About an hour into the otherwise peaceful gathering, police detained a person who allegedly wouldn't clear Main Street for traffic. Other protesters attempted to impede that arrest and were also taken into custody. In the resulting fracas, Carmen Turnbaugh tumbled down the stairway in front of the police station as St. Johnsbury Police Lt. Mark Bickford cleared a path to the entrance.

In video captured by Jeremy Baldauf, we see Turnbaugh clearly interfering with law enforcement. And then we see what happens when a rugged, strong police officer has to move a much smaller person.

It was an unfortunate moment that detracted from an otherwise uplifting series of events.

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We watched our local police come out of the station, calmly engage with protesters and take a knee in solidarity with them. We saw the same thing the day before in Littleton and Lyndon, and those moments struck us as a dramatic contrast to the violent exchanges we've watched in other parts of the country.

Baldauf's video generated a lot of impassioned commentary. On one side you had critics calling for Bickford's head over clear evidence of police brutality - at a protest against police brutality of all things!!! The other side pointed out that Turnbaugh was breaking the law and what would you have police do when surrounded and under attack?!!

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As the intelligentsia took to Facebook to work through that dilemma, Turnbaugh and Bickford took it upon themselves to refocus everyone's attention on what really matters. The pair met on Saturday at the St. Johnsbury Welcome Center; apologized to each other for their roles in the incident; and agreed that the message of the protest should not be lost in conflict. They said they each "stand together with mutual respect."

Town Manager Chad Whitehead commended Turnbaugh for her courage and conviction, and Bickford for his understanding and dedication to the community.

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And the Governor took notice.

"I thought that was just a great moment for us and a teaching moment for us. I think we can all learn something from it," said Governor Phil Scott. "I believe that law enforcement, again, did what they could under the circumstance and the individual, the young woman, as well stepped up and saw that there was a broader good that could be developed in the aftermath. I thought it was a great moment, a great teaching moment."

We're struggling to see eye-to-eye with the Governor on much these days but we couldn't agree more with him and Chad on this one. We sincerely applaud Bickford and Turnbaugh for taking the high road, and modeling big lessons in humility, dignity, respect, community and understanding from our tiny corner of the world.

— The Caledonian Record, June 11


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