A ‘George Floyd—type incident’ at the Sanders speech gives hope for future

TOWNSHEND — I'm amazed, and ironically happy, to report that on Labor Day I witnessed a “George Floyd–type incident” in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Ironically happy because, as far as I could tell, any injury to the suspect or police officer involved were minor.

So why do I compare it to what happened to George Floyd?

Let me explain.

Senator Bernie Sanders appeared on Brattleboro's Town Common at noon on Labor Day to give a speech which focused on describing and promoting the $3.5 trillion budget plan that he, as chairperson of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, has been working hard to negotiate since January.

The enthusiastic crowd voluntarily kept themselves about 20 feet from the steps of the gazebo from which he spoke with no fence required. A single uniformed police officer stood just a short distance from the senator.

Given Bernie's high profile and known unpopularity with certain extremist individuals, groups, websites, and TV networks, that was a very minimal security presence.

In the middle of the speech, a white gentleman walked forward from the crowd toward the senator. He was later said to have claimed that he just wanted to shake Bernie's hand, but the police officer stepped forward to intercept him and divert his path to the side. It seemed to me that this was a reasonable thing to do given recent events.

The officer appeared to do this firmly but not with excessive force and at first the two of them continued to walk away from the gazebo at a normal pace. However, once they had gone about 50 feet, the officer appeared to inform the gentleman that he was under arrest. At this point the gentleman appeared to resist, and a brief struggle commenced.

Here's why I'm calling it a George Floyd–type incident.

The moment the struggle began, at least 30 people from the crowd noticed the escalation, raised their camera phones, and moved very quickly toward the incident. Literally within seconds they formed a semicircle about 10 feet from the two men.

Without speaking a word that I could hear, they watched and recorded as the officer smoothly took the gentlemen to the ground, sitting on his back, and expertly handcuffing the still-struggling man. The officer got up, stood the handcuffed gentleman up, and both walked off in the direction of the police cruiser parked nearby.

That was the last I saw of them as I and the citizen journalists turned our attention back to Bernie's speech, which is why we were there.

The reason I wrote that I was amazed is that it was my first in-person encounter with the new post-George Floyd world, and I liked what I saw.

I didn't see the officer do anything unreasonable, given the circumstances, but if he had mistreated the gentleman in any way, there would have been 30 eager witnesses with video evidence to back them up.

I remember reading the classic book Brave New World about 50 years ago in public school. If what I witnessed today was the brave new world we are living in today, I believe there's hope for a better future than that author envisioned.

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