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Unified Statement to Occupy Burlington General Assembly November 11, 2011

We are writing to solicit your assistance. In the wake of the tragic death of Josh Pfenning, Burlington Police have an active criminal investigation that involves serious and complicated work to ensure that all aspects of this investigation are conducted thoroughly and professionally. Among the issues this raises is the need to maintain control of the crime scene while investigation continues. Until we are fully confident that all possible investigative avenues have been expended we must maintain control of that area of the park and it remains closed until further notice. We are able to release property/tents from that area after they have been cleared of any possible involvement. Please note that it is only done, at this time, at the request and with the consent of the owners. Anyone with property or a tent in that area is encouraged to remove it. To do so, please go to the park and meet with the officers stationed there. Please also note that Street Outreach Team members have been present in the Park throughout the last two weeks offering services to those who may be in need. That has continued through today. As you know, the City took a wait and see approach to the occupation of City Hall Park. Yesterday at 2:07 p.m. the safety landscape was altered substantially. Prior to yesterday afternoon there was no way to reasonably foresee that this level of risk would occur in the encampment. Now there is. The presence of structure/tents creates an enhanced risk by virtue of the activity that can and is occurring inside them with such potentially dangerous activity hidden from view in areas that are routinely open to and accessed by the public. These risks cannot be managed by the encampment facilitators or police under the current circumstances. These challenges, as underscored by events in other parts of the country, are not unique to Burlington. We have communicated that we believe the tents will need to be removed to ensure the safety of those involved in the protest and the public. We will continue conversations late today with the general assembly in hopes of resolving these concerns swiftly. It is important to note that this is about balance. We fully recognize the need to foster an environment in which lawful protest can occur. As such, since the outset the City has clearly offered to make the Park available for lawful protest activities between 6 am and midnight, when the Park is open. That offer continues. We must now balance the safety issues that have become so vivid in the last 24 hours with the need to enable free speech. Our assessment is that, absent an option that no one has brought forward, the presence of tents or structures is no longer safe. We ask that you work with us to remove tents at your earliest convenience. Burlington Police will continue to work to clear the scene so that escorts to remove tents will no longer be needed, and lawful protest or other activity can resume at the southern end of the Park at the earliest possible time. Sincerely and Respectfully.
Thomas J. Donovan, Jr., Chittenden County States Attorney Bob Kiss, Mayor of Burlington Seth Lasker, Chief, Burlington Fire Department Michael Schirling, Chief, Burlington Police Department Robert Appel, Executive Director, VT Human Rights Commission (Reviewed and approved as to form as enforcement agencies are giving clear notice of their announced changes to enforcing applicable city ordinances.)