On March 2, a group of Vermont lawmakers and activists—including Senator Kesha Ram-Hinsdale and Ben and Jerry—held a press conference in Burlington, Vermont. They came together outside a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop to draw attention to the necessity of ending qualified immunity (QI) in the Green Mountain State, reports My Champlain Valley.
In a recent poll, an overwhelming majority of Vermonters, three out of four, said they favored ending QI for bad cops. Yet despite tremendous demand for overturning the doctrine—not just in Vermont but nationwide—efforts to abolish QI have been “a slow process,” stemming mostly from the federal government’s inability to pass police reform following George Floyd’s murder.
“Seventy-five percent of Vermonters believe police officers should not be immune from prosecution,” said Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s and co-chair of the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity, at the press conference, alluding to the poll. “But our system of representative government is failing us.”
Not all elected officials disregard the will of the people when it comes to strengthening public safety. Case in point: Vermont State Senator Kesha Ram-Hinsdale, who wholeheartedly supports ending qualified immunity in her state. At the Burlington press conference, she spoke candidly about her firsthand experience with racist policing.
“I was 13 years old when I was arrested by the LAPD with a friend of mine who is also brown,” Kesha Ram-Hinsdale told the crowd. “We were a block away from her house getting something she needed from the store at about 9:30 at night. And two officers pulled up and they asked us, ‘Are you Mexican? Are you sure you’re not Mexican?’”
According to Kesha Ram-Hinsdale, the bad cops booked her, handcuffed her to a bench, and refused to read her rights. Adding insult to injury, they weren’t held accountable for their misconduct. Now that she’s a Vermont lawmaker, the senator wants to make sure this kind of injustice doesn’t happen to any of her constituents.
“Officers of the law have the right and ability to detain people, to pull a gun on people, to take away their civil liberties, and in some cases their life—[they] need more accountability, not less than every other job in America,” Kesha Ram-Hinsdale stated.
Other speakers at the press conference to end qualified immunity included Rev. Mark Hughes, director of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, and Kiah Morris, executive director of Rights & Democracy Vermont.
Read the entire article on the Burlington press conference here.