'Liberate Vermont' protest draws 30 to Willow Park

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BENNINGTON — A "Liberate Vermont Freedom Assembly" rally at Willow Park on Saturday evening drew about 30 people, who protested what they believe is corruption in government and objected to actions taken by the state to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The "Liberate Vermont" rally was organized by Kevin Hoyt, who is running for governor as well as senate for Bennington.

"I want to open Vermont," Hoyt said. "I don't think we ever should have closed."

Willow Park's pavilion is closed to gatherings according to the Town of Bennington Recreation Area Re-Opening Health and Safety Plan - Phase III. Despite this, the group of approximately 30 protestors gathered at the location.

Section 1B of the plan, titled Willow Park, states "The pavilion remains closed to the general public and picnic tables remain stacked. Groups and organizations may request to use the pavilion for social gatherings of up to 25 people. A written plan that meets all applicable health and safety requirements in accordance with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) Close Contact Business Stage 2 guidelines and Outdoor Recreation Businesses, Facilities and Organizations guidelines is required."

"The plan will be reviewed and approved by the Town of Bennington Facilities Director prior to the event occurring," section 1B concludes.

Caution tape restricting access to the pavilion was removed by one member of the group. Multiple protestors gathered within the pavilion itself.

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Hoyt said he did not contact the Town's facilities director about the gathering, but did reach out to the Bennington Police Department on Friday to notify them that the group would be having a Second Amendment assembly. A handful of the protesters were concealing a firearm.

There was no police presence at the gathering, which was peaceful.

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The group grew to approximately 30 people by 7:30 p.m. Not one was wearing a mask.

"I think there's a whole bunch of issues with the masks," Hoyt said. "It's unconstitutional."

Colleen Harrington of Bennington said she is upset with the town deciding not to allow gatherings for the Fourth of July.

"When they tell us we can't cook hot dogs or bring the kids up with a sparkler — I'm done," Harrington said.

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John Sumner, a Bennington resident, wants to see massive change.

"The corruption in this town, and the corruption in this state, something's got to be done about it," Sumner said. "The whole system's corrupt."

One sign at the protest read "When our government arrests themselves for their crimes, we will trust them again."

On top of the protest, Hoyt wanted to get people together for a Fourth of July celebration.

"It's a double celebration," Hoyt said. "I can't imagine not having an Independence Day." Hoyt was handing out refreshments and grilling hotdogs as part of the celebration. Many brought flags or wore patriotic clothing to celebrate the Fourth of July while spreading their message of what they believe is statewide corruption.

"This is American, and that's what I want to celebrate," Hoyt said. "Red, white and blue today."


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