Police say ‘significant resources’ required to manage climate protests

city of Montpelier

BUSY WEEK FOR POLICE: The ongoing threat of mass public protest for the Global Climate Strike has put a significant burden on local police tasked with keeping the peace.

 

As climate change-related protests continue to take place with increasing regularity, law enforcement officials find themselves struggling over how best to maintain order and traffic flow amid mass disruptions.

Local police say marches and rallies are more than just a nuisance — they hog scarce department resources, and at significant cost to taxpayers.

Last Friday, the climate strike in Montpelier was an excuse for hundreds of students from Montpelier High School and U-32 to march to City Hall along River Street, one of the main avenues through the city. Police officers were on hand to escort students who clogged roads and blocked traffic for much of the morning.

Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos told True North in an interview Tuesday that his department was prepared for additional protests, such as one expected to occur at the Statehouse on Wednesday. He said while most street marches don’t involve citizens applying for permits to occupy public areas, his already busy police officers — Montpelier has 17 total — have to maintain a presence in the area.

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Montpelier Police Chief Tony Facos

“My priority, first and foremost, is safety for everybody, both the community as well as the participants of any demonstration,” Facos said. “We look at resources, in this case not only law-enforcement resources, but also, in particular, our public works and transportation to get detour packaging out and those kinds of things.”

While local residents might expect police to make arrests to prevent mass disruption in the first place, Facos said such decisions have to be made as events unfold.

“I never can fully articulate ahead of time what our strategy will be,” he said. “In some situations we will make arrests, and it depends on what the conduct is, what’s the scope, and what our resources are. Everything we do is focused on public safety.”

Facos said blocking or chaining doors is one example of protest activity that is likely to lead to arrests.

He added that any time his department is forced to allocate time and personnel to an event, it’s a serous burden.

“It takes significant police resources; it is a drain financially to the communities and to the state,” he said. “We have to bring in extra people on overtime, which is a challenge to the officers because they’ve got to come in on overtime when they don’t want to be here.”

Another challenge with global warming-related protest marches is dealing with youth. Officers moving in on a crowd of protesters may have to consider that they are dealing with juveniles and juvenile law. Facos said in such instances his department consults with the local state’s attorney to see what strategies to take.

Law enforcement in other areas of the state are involved in similar response planning, even if the crowds are smaller. Bennington police had a presence during the march in Bennington this week, although Lt. Camillo Grande said the protests were peaceful.

“There weren’t any issues that I’m aware of,” he said. “We did have one group of about 100 to 125 who marched through the center of town. We have not heard of any [more marches], but if we do [get one], we don’t expect any issues.”

Cmdr. Matthew Prouty of the Rutland Police Department said his team was out for last Friday’s climate strike.

“It was done on school property,” he said. “We had one downtown but we had made contact with the organizers. They were very respectful not to block sidewalks or to disrupt other people that weren’t part of it.”

To the north in Burlington, thousands protested around the city center. Burlington Police posted on social media that the public should strive to allow both freedom of expression and freedom of movement without disruption.

Expect big crowds in #BTV today as part of the #VermontClimateStrike. @OneNorthAvenue will work to balance ALL our neighbors' rights—freedom of expression and freedom to get where you need to go. #besafe

Posted by Burlington Police Department on Friday, September 20, 2019

But not everyone is happy with police allowing the recent protests. In response to the post by Burlington police, Tim Lawler of South Burlington wrote, “Why police avoid confrontation with these petty people who should be only on sidewalk. Pathetic display of authority – borderline cowardly.”

Elsewhere, where larger protests occurred, the results were not so peaceful. Police in New York City made dozens of arrests outside of the United Nations building. On Sept. 27, protesters in Washington, D.C., marched out in the streets with the intention to “shut down” the city.

Protesters clogged major thoroughfares in the nation’s capital, and some chained themselves to a sailboat at the intersection of 16th and K Streets, CBS News reported.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of city of Montpelier and Vote for Vermont/ORCA

7 thoughts on “Police say ‘significant resources’ required to manage climate protests

  1. Gee, it’s great to see America’s youngest and brightest getting out there to let the world know we have a climate problem, (depending on whom you believe) however all their shouting and disruption accomplishes zip, zero, nada. I’d much rather all this energy were directed at something useful like exposing the myth of wind and solar for example.

  2. Round up these groups and get them off the roads before someone gets hurt. It is civil disobedience they are practicing, not protesting. Stick them in a park somewhere surrounded by police where they will be safe and keep us the regular public safe as well. This is the job of the police…………blocking roads and causing harm t regular people is not what they should be allowed to do. Get with it, these are fascists and are dangerous, public safety is the only concern the police should be worried about, period. PS the police could also charge them a ll for all the man hours needed to keep the fascists from hurting regular citizens that are just trying to go about their day…………..PUBLIC SAFETY

  3. Here we go the Montpelier Police Chief just ” CYA”, you have a duty to keep your people
    safe and this surely wasn’t your priority with this protest……out of control mayhem.

    You had plenty of time to set the ground rules for this protest, but I assume you decided to
    follow this progressive movement in Montpelier and not upset these clowns……. Shame on you !!

    Protest all you want, just don’t step on my toes for you’re foolishness or five minutes of fame
    what a spineless display !!

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