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Police Shut Down Occupy Burlington Encampment After Shooting

Police announced today that the continued occupation of City Hall Park in Burlington, Vt. was a risk to public safety and it could not continue.

Vermont Public Radio reports on what Police Chief Michael Schirling had to say:

"The overwhelming majority of people in this movement are peaceful and they've have tried very hard with the city to achieve balance and to ensure that they're doing their best to create a safe environment. It's clear that it's not completely possible to do that, we believe, with the existence of tents. And simultaneously we saw last night for the first time a few people who, we believe, were trying to incite altercations, incite the crowd to do things or to provoke a response from law enforcement."

The decision comes a day after a man described as "transient" by police shot himself in the head inside one of the tents.

"The risk is not a pretext for them to move out of the park," said Schirling, according to VPR. "We're happy to allow them to do activities in the park from 6 a.m. until midnight to continue to get their message out. It just has to be done in a way where we can do a better job of ensuring safety. And right now the biggest impediment to that safety is the presence of the tents."

Police cordoned off the park with crime scene tape, yesterday. And last night, things got tense as police and protesters clashed over the arrest of one of the protesters.The Burlington Free Press reported on the scene, yesterday:

"Just a day after the joyful spontaneity of a Gogol Bordello performance Wednesday night at City Hall Park, Thursday's shooting that police believe may have been self-inflicted spiraled into a tense confrontation between Burlington police and some protesters over access to the park.

"The evening culminated in this surreal scene nearly five hours after the shooting: Mayor Bob Kiss, standing hatless and coatless in a cold rain, talking a group of close to 100 City Hall Park occupiers down from a near riot."

As we reported earlier, the Occupy movement has had a tough few days. In Oakland a man was shot and killed near the Occupy Oakland encampment.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.