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After Incident In Upper Valley, Scott Warns Vermonters Against Hostility Toward Visitors

Gov. Phil Scott in May, speaking at one of his administration's briefings on pandemic.
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Gov. Phil Scott used his press briefing Wednesday to condemn the harassment of an African American Vermonter who was accosted while driving a vehicle with New York license plates.

Gov. Phil Scott says he’s apologized to a Hartford family “on behalf of the state of Vermont” after they were accosted while driving a car with New York license plates and told “the governor did not want them here.”

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Scott has repeatedly asked out-of-state residents to refrain from coming to Vermont. But the governor said during a press briefing Wednesday that he was upset to learn that his statements were invoked by an unidentified man who harassed a Hartford resident driving in the Upper Valley last week.

More from VPR: Governor Condemns Xenophobia, Racism Following Hartford Incident

“And … they were, amongst other things, told they were not welcome here and that the governor did not want them here either. And sadly this happened in front of their 11-year-old child,” Scott said Wednesday. “Even more disturbing was the racial undertone used during this exchange with the individual, who is a person of color. So let me be very clear: This is not acceptable and it can’t be tolerated and there’s no excuse for it.”

"This virus cannot be used as an excuse for hate, bigotry or division of any type for any reason." - Gov. Phil Scott

Scott used his press briefing Wednesday to clarify his request that out-of-state residents not enter Vermont. He said people with second homes in Vermont, or who have family here, “are welcome.” And while the 14-day self-quarantine order remains in effect for anyone arriving from out of state, Scott said Vermonters should be hospitable to all comers.

“This virus cannot be used as an excuse for hate, bigotry or division of any type for any reason,” Scott said. “We cannot let this become an us-versus-them situation, and I want to make sure everyone hears that.”

Scott said he spoke at length Tuesday with the Hartford family that was harassed, and that Vermont State Police are investigating the incident. Scott said the family recently became Vermont residents but still drive a car with New York license plates.

Scott said he’s sought to prevent hostility against out of state visitors, and pointed to a March 30 briefing in which he said, “We can’t let this become an us-versus them view of the world.”

“That’s not who we are as Americans and certainly not as Vermonters, and we shouldn’t let anything change that,” Scott said in March.

Scott, however, said he’d recently been “more blunt” about his desire for out-of-state residents, especially those from COVID-19 “hotspots,” to stay out of the state.

Scott said comments Wednesday were intended to clear up “any misconception about my views, because my name was inferred in” the incident that occurred in Hartford.

For a timeline outlining Vermont's response to COVID-19, head here.

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