Black professor with N.Y. plates in Vermont told 'to leave' state; police investigating

“The victim, who is black, was advised that he was not wanted in Vermont,” police said, adding, “There were significant racial undertones to the interaction.”
Image: A road sign welcoming drivers to Vermont in Wells River, Vt., on the New Hampshire border.
A road sign welcoming drivers to Vermont in Wells River, Vt., on the New Hampshire border.Lisa Rathke / AP

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Ben Kesslen

A black man in Vermont with New York license plates said he was flagged down by two vehicles and then told by one of the drivers "to leave" the state, Vermont State Police said.

Police are investigating the “bias-related incident” that occurred on Friday in Hartford, a small town on the New Hampshire border just 10 minutes from Dartmouth College, the agency said in a press release on Wednesday.

Authorities said the man, a professor who owns property in the state and who was not identified by name, was driving with his 11-year-old son at around 10 a.m. on Friday “when two unknown vehicles, possibly pickup trucks, approached him and flagged him down.”

Thinking someone needed assistance, the man stopped and spoke with one of the drivers, a white male.

“The victim, who is black, was advised that he was not wanted in Vermont and told to leave,” police said in the statement, adding, “There were significant racial undertones to the interaction.”

Police said the victim was able to “verbally de-escalate the situation and drive home” without the interaction turning physical. He was “in fear for the physical safety of him and his son,” authorities wrote, saying they have been in contact with the victim and his family, but do not have descriptions of the vehicles or the people who the man said pulled him over.

“People in Vermont should not have to worry about crimes motivated by hate at any time, let alone when our communities should be pulling together to face an unprecedented situation that affects all of us,” Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police, said in a statement.

The state’s governor, Phil Scott, said he spoke to the victim personally, according to NBC affiliate WPTZ in Burlington.

“I want to be very clear: I have no tolerance for this kind of thing. It’s unacceptable. It does not represent my views or who I believe we are as a state," the governor said at a news conference Wednesday.

The governor said despite coronavirus travel orders in place, out-of-state residents who own property in Vermont are still welcome, according to WPTZ.