By Guy Page
A Poultney woman says she was struck in the face with an open hand twice, struck again in the face with a stolen folded political sign, and then pepper sprayed after the Vermont Liberty rally at the Vermont State House Saturday.
Two witnesses corroborate her account. Montpelier police are investigating.
As Vermont Liberty founder John Klar addressed the crowd on the State House steps at about 1 pm, Skau – a Vermont Liberty supporter – saw three teenaged girls not far away.
The girls were seen to have been spitting on people during a December, 2020 Trump rally. Recognizing them as possible disruptive influences, she approached them and began to engage them in polite conversation that she hoped would distract and defuse them. The girls called Skau a “crackerjack” and were playing loud music with vulgar, racially-charged lyrics.
It was clear to Skau “they were purposely there to instigate and antagonize,” she said during a Vermont Daily interview Thursday afternoon. The conversation then turned to their music, which was sexually explicit and used the “n-word” freely. Skau said she wondered aloud why it seems okay for some to say [n-word] but it’s not okay for others. The girls said that as black people (which Skau didn’t immediately recognize by their skin color) they were allowed to use that word.
The Capitol Police then asked the girls to turn down the music. The girls soon left.
“Then I was like, ‘okay, they’re gone,” Skau said. “Great, beautiful weather. Nice, peaceful day.”
But not peaceful for long.
At about 4:30, as scheduled activities were winding down, a woman who identified herself as the girl’s mother drove up in a pickup truck, got out, approached Skau from behind as she stood on the west side of the State House lawn and demanded to know if Skau had called her daughter an [n-word].
“I started walking towards them,” Skau said. She told the mother, “let me explain.”
Had she been given the opportunity, Skau would have said she raised two black children in a childcare setting for 10 years, that her children are part Korean, and that she would never use that word as a racial slur.
But she didn’t get the chance.
Skau said she did not get in the woman’s face or act or speak in a threatening manner, stopping about three feet from her. At that point the mother yelled “Get away from me. Don’t come near me.” Then the mother stepped forward and struck Skau twice in the face with her hand.
“I was just in shock,” Skau recalls. She remembers saying “O my word, call the cops.” She did not retaliate.
“Then one of the girls handed her [the assailant] the sign and she smacked me in the head hard twice with it.” The sign had been stolen from the State House lawn and folded into a stiff object.
In the first few moments of the unexpected assault, Skau’s friend Shona Reiter of Stowe was fumbling with her cellphone camera, trying to get it to record. So she missed videotaping the next stage of the assault: the pepper spray.
“I thought I was recording. I hit and missed the button,” Reiter, 70, said. “I was about 15 feet away.”
“She made an effort to move towards me and spray me,” Skau said. “She approached and sprayed twice. She was just like, shrieking and acting like she was about to die.”
Then the assailant fled for her nearby pickup truck. What happened next is recorded on Reiter’s video, posted on Skau’s Facebook page.
“I followed her to the parking lot after she was hitting me,” Skau said. “I didn’t want her fleeing the scene. I’m not letting her get away with it. This happens too much. I said ‘no you’re not leaving.’ I got in front of the car.” At the same time Curiale also approached the car and pointed a pair of flag poles at the windshield in a ‘stay there’ gesture.
The video shows that after some contact between Skau and Curiale with the truck, the truck won’t stop. Skau and Curiale stand aside enough for the truck to leave speedily.
Skau, Curiale and Reiter all are pressing charges, and the assault is under investigation. They say Montpelier police have video that shows the hand, poster and pepper spray assaults.
“I’m not letting her get away with it,” Skau said. “This happens too much.” A Support The Police rally on the State House lawn last summer was disrupted by chanting, profane, in-your-face protesters, intimidating attendees and preventing them from being heard. When the protesters apparently caught a single attendee making an angry remark, the video was shared on WCAX, the story went ‘national’, and Gov. Scott condemned the remark as racist at a press conference.
Skau said she has had signs ripped from her hands during protests. She, Reiter and Curiale also may press a civil suit as well.
Since last Saturday, both Reiter and Skau say they’ve suffered post-traumatic stress. “It’s very traumatizing,” Skau said. “I’ve had trouble eating. It’s almost like having sudden death in the family. There’s like a heaviness on me.”
Reiter offered this ‘takeaway’: “More than the physical pain….My disappointment in our systems of keeping people safe, in the way things are in our society, and in our politics, that people are not given the opportunity to express peacefully without being silenced. My voice counts. Everybody’s voice counts. They need to stop silencing us. This is not the country I was raised in.”
More details – including the alleged assailant’s side of the story and the video and photo record – will be published in Vermont Daily as they become available. A 40-minute interview of Skau and Curiale, conducted by Mary Sheldon, appears below.