City officials in Burlington say they’ll review Sunday’s altercation between protesters and police that turned violent outside the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers.
Videos posted online show a confrontation developed late in the day after protesters blocked a bus carrying state and foreign dignitaries to dinner.
Burlington police say protesters were warned several times before officers carrying plastic shields and wearing helmets were deployed to walk ahead of the bus.
When protesters refused to move, police and protesters clashed. Officers fired sting ball pellets and pepper spray.
"These were not just peaceful, passive demonstrations," said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger who believes police followed protocol in a very difficult situation.
"The great majority of the feedback that I’ve been receiving and the police have received has been sympathetic and understanding with what the police needed to do to get their job done there," he said.
Weinberger says the city is still reviewing some of the details to fully understand what happened. But labor activists in Burlington, like Faried Munarsyah, argue that the police overreacted and that their official narrative of the events has minimized the severity of their response.
"It was just the most visible, physical manifestation of what’s wrong with our system," Munarsyah said in a telephone interview. "When [protesters] rallied in front of the hotel, they were blocked off by robocops, you know?"
Munarsyah was part of Sunday’s demonstration, and he says the confrontation raises questions about who the police serve. "[They] should be serving us and protecting us. Government should be serving our interest and not a corporate entity."
Burlington Police Chief Mike Schirling has suggested that protesters came prepared for an altercation and now they’re hoping to change the narrative.
A thorough police report of the incident is expected to be made public in the coming weeks.
Video posted on YouTube: