By Michael Bielawski
About two weeks ago VDC did a report on an incident at a Burlington City Council meeting regarding the apparent censorship of a public speaker by a former council member. The meeting occurred on Aug.14.
The incident involved Todd Lacroix, a Burlington resident who frequently speaks at public events. After speaking critically of social justice efforts such as the Black Lives Matter movement he then had his microphone seized from him by Rachel Siegel who is a former Burlington city councilor as well as she was recently the campaign manager for Councilor Melo Grant.
The meeting was covered by various media outlets online. Accounts of the meeting largely left out details of the incident or made no mention at all.
WAMC reported on the meeting but made no mention of the incident. The article gives much attention to the crowd that was largely there to support Tyeastia Green. She is the former Racial Equity Inclusion and Belonging office director who was caught in numerous questionable public financing decisions regarding the city’s 2022 Juneteenth celebration.
The VTDigger report covered the incident in a paragraph more than 20 paragraphs into the article. It described it as a “crowd” that took away the microphone rather than identifying the individual.
“That led several in the crowd to stand up and pull the microphone away from him. He continued to shout as he left the room,” the report states.
A message was sent to Paul Heintz the editor of the website asking for further comment, but he has not yet responded.
Seven Days covered the meeting but according to a note at the bottom of the article, the original story had to be updated to include that the mic was grabbed from the speaker.
“Council President Karen Paul (D-Ward 6) had to pause the meeting at one point after one attendee began shouting about ‘black supremacy and white supremacy.’ The speaker, Todd Lacroix, continued to yell even as the crowd shouted over him and an audience member attempted to take the microphone from him. He eventually left the auditorium,” is what the report now states.
The report goes into no further details on who took the mic or what Lacroix was trying to say. It doesn’t note that no one tried to interfere with the censorship.
No one “dared to challenge” the censorship
Not only the media but the public in attendance largely sat quietly or cheered on the 1st amendment offense.
“This was authoritarian suppression. And no one stopped it,” wrote Kolby Lamarche for VDC.
“Not one lawyer, of the many present, dared to challenge the infringement. They sat, silent, afraid of any engagement,” Lamarche added.
What was he trying to say?
Lacroix was only able to speak for a brief moment before being cut off.
“I see so much selective outrage from people every which way from people like you and people like you [he points to individuals at the meeting] and people being hypocrites,” he said. “How many times have you called someone an anti-semite because they called you out for being corrupt?”
He mentioned he had a messy divorce from his former African-American spouse and he suggested that both white and black supremacy are real concerns.
At this point, the microphone is grabbed and his statement is cut off. No one from the council or other city leadership – including Mayor Miro Weinberger – intervened in the apparent 1st Amendment violation. Instead, the council called for a break. Lacroix leaves the room in apparent distress.
He takes the microphone at 1:50:45 into the meeting which was on Aug. 14.
Siegel has a history
Siegel – who took the microphone – has established herself in local media as a “Leftist, Militant and Queer” during her time as a city councilor. On July 4 of this year, Siegal posted an angry rant on her Facebook page about the patriotic holiday. She also includes posts demonstrating how to do “twerking” dance moves.
“And I hate the impact on Black people, brown people, and other marginalized people for whom independence is limited throughout their lives by interpersonal and systemic barriers to a full and free life,” she wrote.
Free Speech Controversies in Vermont
This is not the first time that Vermont has been in the headlines for free speech infractions. In 2017 the Middlebury College campus came under nationwide scrutiny for a protest that essentially shut down a speech by Charles Murray, author of “The Bell Curve” which suggests a link between race, intelligence, and economic outcomes.
In another free-speech controversy, Aaron Kindsvatter, a former professor in the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont, has been outspoken about efforts to indoctrinate staff and students with “race essentialism” which is similar to critical race theory.
The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle