A Black Vermont homeowner was stopped and told "to leave the state" when other motorists spotted New York license plates on his vehicle, Vermont State Police told NBC News. The victim, who hasn't been identified but works as a professor, was driving his 11-year-old son around 10 AM Friday “when two unknown vehicles, possibly pickup trucks, approached him and flagged him down,” police said. The man thought the other drivers needed help, but "there were significant racial undertones to the interaction,” police said.
"The victim, who is black, was advised that he was not wanted in Vermont and told to leave,” police said. Authorities said even though the victim successfully deescalated the situation and drove home without incident, he was “in fear for the physical safety of him and his son.” Vermont Gov. Phil Scott hinted that the motorists who stopped the family may have been responding to travel restrictions implemented in the state that “strongly discourages” travel to Vermont from COVID-19 “hot spots.”
“While we have travel restrictions to protect public health, when I announced this guidance, I said explicitly we cannot let this become an ‘us versus them’ situation,” the governor tweeted Wednesday. “I want to make sure everyone hears that. We can be both neighborly and compassionate, while staying safe.”
He told Vermont Public Radio that he apologized to the family on behalf of the state. “I want to be VERY clear: I have no tolerance for this kind of thing and it’s unacceptable. It does not represent my views or who we are as a state,” Scott tweeted Wednesday.
“Here’s the bottom line: Concerns about this virus CANNOT be used as an excuse for hate, bigotry, or division - of any type - for any reason. This virus knows no border and it doesn’t discriminate,” Scott said in another tweet.
”We’re all in this together, and human decency will help get us through this challenging time,” he added. “Let’s remember, our common enemy is the virus, not each other. And we should use every ounce of energy to defeat it.”