Social justice demonstrators in Burlington who are demanding the removal of police officers involved in use-of-force incidents have turned against the liberal-leaning publication Seven Days and are demanding the firing of one of its reporters.
Last week, the independent alt-weekly paper ran the story “Battery Power: How Black Lives Matter Protesters Occupied a Park, Captivated a City — and Got Some of What They Wanted” on its cover. Since then, hundreds of copies have been taken from newsstands and burned in protest by BLM demonstrators. The story was written by staff writer Chelsea Edgar.
The issue of contention involved an interview with Anthony Marques, a former Black Lives Matter organizer who also goes by the name Anthony Bathalon. Marques, one of the few people associated with the movement willing to talk to media over the past month, told Seven Days the Burlington protest organizers are taking advantage of people.
“See, what’s happening is a cult,” he told Edgar. “They think it’s OK to exploit white people, is what’s happening. It’s an exploitation of white people that show up on Tuesdays and Thursdays, wearing black, because those are the big days to show up and pretend that you’re not racist. It’s just a s— show. It’s sickening.”
A group within the movement called Black femme is at the forefront of the backlash against the publication. As they burned the papers, protesters chanted “Chelsea about to lose her job” and “F— Seven Days.” After the fires finished, they demanded that all the white men in their movement pick up the mess.
It’s not the first time the social justice movement has targeted a local news employee. In 2018, Burlington Free Press editor Denis Finley was fired after social justice activists targeted him for expressing his view that a third gender option should not be included on DMV applications.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger called the burning of Seven Days newspapers “uncomfortable to see.” Seven Days publisher Paula Routly issued a statement defending her paper and affirming the importance of free speech. “People should be able to pick up a copy themselves and decide what they think,” she said.
The paper has vowed to keep newsstands stocked until the next issue comes out on Wednesday.
Marques partially retracted his comments to the paper, but he still maintains that he “did the right thing” by expressing his views.
“I spoke with this journalist yesterday to personally tell them how I felt and did the right thing by expressing not only my disgust but now I have to do the right thing and respect those who don’t even respect me and apologize,” he wrote on Facebook.
On social media a debate has stirred over whether Marques was correct or just offensive in his characterization of the protests. Mike Carriveau, of Plainfield, commented that Marques was right in his criticism of the movement.
“Apparently there’s dissension amongst the provocateurs!” he wrote in the comment section on a Facebook post by state Rep. Marianna Gamache, R-Swanton. “When elected officials succumb to political correctness to appease those who’ve caught the spotlight for their moment in the sun, a righteous member comes forth and spells out the forbidden truth of their narrative. The consequent retaliation from this hate group clearly defines where the racism actually lies, and makes mockery of Vermont’s supposed systemic racism.
“We should all be thanking this man for his courageous actions, and understand Vermonters bear no ill will towards others and wish only to have it reciprocated.”
Some of the comments directed against Edgar online were distasteful.
After reading the editors comments I now see why @chedgar31 was hired in the first place. There is fragile white woman fragility from top to bottom at 7D
— Tom Proctor (@TomProctor11) September 25, 2020
Edgar, who also has written for BuzzFeed and Philadelphia Magazine, did not respond to TNR’s request for comment.