VTDigger greets us with a happy little tale from Rutland of a vigilante band taking the law into their own hands. The story is pretty thorough and goes on at some length. It’s alarming stuff, although the local cops and county prosecutor seem to be just fine with it. I mean, this could be nothing more than Neighborhood Watch on steroids, but the story leads with a shoplifter being confronted and assaulted by members of the “Rutland City Patrol.” Not a good sign.
Especially when you look at the above photo, which accompanied the Digger story. There’s the cheap-looking “Rutland City Patrol” magnetic sign. And then there’s a second sign that’s clearly associated with Blue Lives Matter.
The article doesn’t mention that. Kind of an important point, don’t you think?
“I got your six” means “I’ve got your back.” It’s used in many contexts. On its own, it’s benign. But when it’s paired with the black, white and blue flag, it’s Blue Lives Matter. And that creates a whole different context for the story and for the City Patrol.
Rutland doesn’t have the best of reputations on racial issues. Activists of color have moved away from the city or county. A Syrian refugee resettlement plan ended the political career of former mayor Chris Louras. There’s the openly racist and January 6 denialist city alderman. Another alderman disagreed with a resolution condemning the January 6 insurrection and instead offered a substitute equally condemning January 6 and Black Lives Matter.
There was the 2019 “Hate Free Vermont” forum where “Several Rutland residents said they feel unwelcome in the city because of overt racism in the schools, the police department and on social media.” How about the events of 2011-12, when a group of Black high school basketball players from the Bronx were recruited to play at Mount St. Joseph Academy and were met with a barrage of racism? How about the Rutland School Board’s nearly endless back-and-forth over the Raiders logo?
There are many fine people in Rutland, but the city’s reputation has been repeatedly stained by racism. What are the chances that some of those racists or racist-adjacent types might be attracted to a vigilante group sporting a Blue Lives Matter emblem? Quite high, I’d think.
Well-meaning or otherwise, the folks behind the City Patrol are holding a lit match over a gasoline spill and inviting arsonists to join their ranks. This isn’t going to end well. And if I were a Black man shopping in Rutland, I’d make damn sure I’ve got all my receipts.
Well, actually, if I were a Black man, I’d think twice about shopping in Rutland. That’s a real shame for a community that’s trying to reinvent itself as a thriving, welcoming place.
Heck, this patrol might just be worse for community life than shoplifting.