Months ago, Vermont’s first Black female legislator, Kiah Morris, announced she would be resigning from her position due to the startling racism she’s faced. On Monday, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said his office would not be prosecuting anyone for Morris' racial torment.
In 2014, Morris made history when she became Vermont’s first Black female legislator. She made history again when she was elected to serve a third term. But throughout her tenure as a representative, Morris and her family have been the subject of racism. They not only faced online harassment, which has become commonplace in our society, but were also the targets of racist attacks, a home invasion and threats. Her family has endured racist vandalism, which included the use of swastikas, and torment so egregious she and her husband had to leave town.
The Bennington Police Department did nothing. CBS News reports Donovan said his office would be investigating the threats Morris suffered in September. On Monday, he announced no one would be prosecuted.
Max Misch, one of the white supremacists that plagued Morris with racism, admitted to intentionally provoking her.
“The online communications that were sent to Ms. Morris by Max Misch and others were clearly racist and extremely offensive," said Donovan. "However, the First Amendment does not make speech sanctionable merely because its content is objectionable."
According to Donovan, his office considered three criminal charges: disturbing the peace by use of the telephone or other electronic communications, criminal threatening and stalking. However, none of the messages Misch and others sent were considered a “true threat.”
Following Donovan's announcement, Morris was visibly emotional.
"We did everything that we were told to do, reported everything, held nothing back and trusted in a system that, in the end, was insufficient and inept at addressing and repairing the harm done," she said. "In the end, we were told there was nothing to be done."
She places the blame on white supremacy, misogyny and inequity, all of which have led to the current state of our criminal justice system. Without a system of protection for Black women, Morris was also unable to lead the way she wanted.
“I cannot be the legislator that I want to be. I cannot speak my truth in the way that needs to have been said,” she said. “I cannot do those things and be secure and be assured of the safety for myself and my family. And that is really unfortunate.”
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