Burlington mic censorship ‘unprecedented,’ city councilor says

Promises council will be more prepared in the future

Rachel Siegel seizes microphone from Todd LaCroix at August 14 Burlington City Council meeting – stillshot from public access TV video

By Michael Bielawski

This week, after VDC highlighted an incident at an August 14 Burlington City Council meeting during which a former city councilor seized the microphone from the hands of a city resident making a public comment, VDC reached out to councilors and Mayor Miro Weinberger about the First Amendment implications and how the Council will proceed going forward. 

So far, one council member has responded. 

“I don’t think it was acceptable when it happened this time,” wrote Burlington South District City Councilor Joan Shannon in an email on Thursday evening to VDC. “I’m sure we’ll be more prepared in the future.”

Burlington City Councilor Joan Shannon

At the August 14 meeting, resident Todd Lacroix was speaking critically of what he claimed is hypocrisy in social justice movements when his microphone was seized by Rachel Siegel, a former Burlington city councilor and recent campaign manager for Councilor Melo Grant.

The audience was in an uproar and the council decided to take a break. Lacroix left the meeting complaining of being silenced and in apparent distress.

Shannon said in all of her two decades on the council she had never witnessed such a thing.

“I will say that in my 20 years on the City Council I don’t ever recall seeing someone do such a thing, despite hundreds of heated meetings and offensive statements,” she said. “When something so unexpected happens it is hard to respond in the moment.”

WAMC, VtDigger, and Seven Days all reported on the meeting. WAMC made no mention of the mic-censorship incident, the other two offered short paragraphs found towards the end of the stories.

According to Shannon, the experience will have the board better prepared if it happens again.

“But it does alert us to consider what to do if it should ever happen again,” she wrote. “How to respond to someone physically intervening with another’s speaking time when the room is the kind of emotional tinderbox we had that night is not easy.”

She further suggested that – although leaving may have been the best option at that point – the board was prepared to offer him more time to speak after the break had he decided to stay.

“Todd understandably, and probably wisely, chose to leave. Once control of the room was regained he could have been offered more time, but since he left that was not an option,” she wrote.

She concluded, “It is our obligation as a Council to assure that each speaker is given their time and that there is a level of decorum in the room to assure no voices are silenced, even when we disagree.”

Grabbing a microphone from a public speaker is a serious enough infraction that it’s resulted in calls for mic-grabbing board members to resign or get special help where it’s happened before across the country. A report out of Pennsylvania details one such instance.

“The Republican committee in a Philadelphia suburb is calling for the local school board president to resign or attend anger management counseling after he demanded that a mother concerned about critical race theory stop speaking at a meeting last week, grabbed her microphone, and had her escorted out by police,” the National Review reported in August of 2021.

In another example from 2020 in South Carolina, a school board member took the microphone from a speaking resident and later was apologetic for the incident.

“Hollinshead [the board member] said he owes Speights [the speaker] an apology and said emotions got high,” the WCSC report stated.

The current status of politics in Burlington has been considered “toxic” in recent years. A WCAX report from January 2022 commented on the situation.

“Angry outbursts at meetings, marches to elected officials’ homes, and threatening emails are all examples of how Burlington politics have turned toxic in recent months,” the report states. “With city elections just over a month away, Katharine Huntley checked in with local officials and would-be candidates about the loss of civility.”

The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle

Categories: Burlington

9 replies »

  1. The zealotry of the progressive left demands that those of us who won’t submit are to be crushed. Us non-believing heretics, like Todd LaCroix, are on their shut-em-up list. You think they might be suspecting that their missionary work is just not very compelling? …nah, self scrutiny isn’t in their repertoire.

  2. When are they going to get it through their thick heads that not everyone agrees with their heavy handed leftist policies? Of course things got heated. NOBODY IS LISTENING TO CONSERVATIVE VOICES and we’re get sick and tired of it!

  3. This is only going to get more prevelant. We can politely offer our own time to people who are censored and protect them by literally standing by their side. Love thy neighbor.god will take care of you.

  4. YET, Burlington citizens ( of which I once was, thankfully no longer ) keep voting in these far left democrats, and progressives into the city hall. If you don’t vote, it’s like a vote for the side you oppose.

    • Amen. If all of you with brains and common sense don’t vote, you are voting for the brainless, fiscally ignorant, irresponsible, fascist leftists. They don’t care if they price you out of your home. VOTE!