3 cited after arrests during mural painting (copy)

Bennington police lead away a man who was arrested during the painting of a Black Lives Matter street mural in Bennington on Aug. 30. Four people were arrested during the three-hour event in front of the town offices on South Street.

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BENNINGTON — Two men are facing criminal charges and a woman was cited with a municipal violation notice over incidents during the painting of the Black Lives Matter street mural on Aug. 30.

Police Chief Paul Doucette said Thursday that Shawn Corcoran, 56, of Pownal, was cited for simple assault and disorderly conduct, and Max Misch, 37, of Bennington, was cited by police for disorderly conduct. Both are expected to be arraigned Oct. 26, he said.

In addition, Doucette said Roberta Scutt, 45, of Bennington, was given a municipal violation notice of disorderly conduct.

A fourth person who was detained by Bennington police during the three-hour event was released without being cited, Doucette said.

"After a review of videos and a witness providing information, the male was released without being issued paperwork," the chief said.

Protesting the mural

All of those arrested apparently attended the community-style event to create the street mural to protest against it and in many instances attempt to block the painting by standing in the way. Small sections of the mural had to be finished the following day because of protesters standing within the chalk outline of the Black Lives Matter lettering.

The arrests were not made at one time but spaced out during the sometimes tense event as artists and community volunteers attempted to paint in the mural features. A number of the more than 100 apparent mural volunteers attending held hands and formed a ring around the mural site to protect it, and at times pushing resulted.

A dozen BPD officers were on hand during the event, often intervening to separate people as arguments between members of the two groups seemed about to escalate toward physical altercations.

Doucette said at the time that, based on consultation with law enforcement officials in the state and the State's Attorney's Office, officers would not arrest people for obstructing the painting on a public street, which could interfere with constitutional rights to protest.

However, he said that if people became disorderly or physical they would be arrested.

Witnesses during the event said that Misch first tried to push inside the circle of arms but was pushed back outside, then later apparently tipped over a container of paint and walked through it over the unfinished mural. The last incident resulted in his arrest.

Others said they witnessed Corcoran push one of the mural volunteers or supporters to the pavement and otherwise try to obstruct the mural painting work.

It was unclear Thursday whether Misch might face any violation of conditions of release ramifications. He was free on conditions after denying in early 2019 charges of obtaining in New Hampshire large-capacity ammunition feeding devices, which were made illegal in Vermont through legislation signed in 2018.

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If convicted, Misch could receive a maximum penalty of up to a year in prison and a $500 fine on each charge.

Alleged violations

Bennington police said in July 2019 that Misch had purchased a firearm after his court-ordered release conditions were imposed on Feb. 7 on misdemeanor counts of possessing illegal high-capacity 30-round firearm magazines. One of the conditions imposed was that he "not buy, have or use any firearms or dangerous/deadly weapons," police said.

Police said Misch purchased a firearm, had paid in full, but did not take possession of the firearm, which remained in the possession of a local firearms dealer.

Misch later was arrested in August 2019 for allegedly violating the conditions of his release on the charges by traveling out of Bennington County to a bar in Hoosick Falls, N.Y.

A photo and video apparently showing Misch in the New York bar surfaced afterward, prompting an investigation by authorities.

He has since been released again on conditions.

Concerning the firearms-related charges, Misch's attorneys filed a motion early last year to have the gun law charges dismissed because of alleged conflicts between the 2018 law provision with the Vermont and U.S. constitutions.

That argument was rejected in June 2019 at the Superior Court level, and attorneys for both sides later sent a joint request to the Vermont Supreme Court seeking a determination on the constitutional questions raised prior to disposition of Misch's case.

A self-described white nationalist, Misch in 2018 admitted he had trolled former Rep. Kiah Morris, of Bennington, online, including posting a racially offensive cartoon.

The former Bennington House District representative, who is Black, ended her campaign for re-election in the fall 2018, citing continuing racially motivated harassment from Misch and others over a two-year period.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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