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Free Speech Or A Threat? Vermont Supreme Court Decision Highlights Continuing Tension

The Vermont Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a man who left KKK recruitment flyers at the Burlington homes of two women of color. The court said the state failed to prove the action constituted an immediate threat. Photo by John Dillon for VPR

The Vermont Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a man who left KKK recruitment flyers at the Burlington homes of two women of color. The court said the state failed to prove the action constituted an immediate threat. Photo by John Dillon for VPR

Last week, the court overturned the conviction of a man who put Ku Klux Klan flyers on the Burlington homes of two women of color. The court said the state didn’t prove the action met the threshold of ‘threatening behavior.’

The decision highlights the on-going tension around protecting speech even when it’s potentially threatening or hateful.

In 2015, two women found KKK flyers at their homes. None of their neighbors had gotten them.

The flyers show a robed Klansman, holding a burning cross and the phrase “join the Klan and save our land.”

Police arrested and charged William Schenk with two counts of disorderly conduct. He pleaded guilty, but the supreme court later overturned his conviction.

Their decision doesn’t sit right with Jabari Jones, a spokesperson for Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington.

Visit VPR for the full story.