White woman’s racist rant at Vermont pro-law enforcement rally says ‘black lives don’t fucking matter’

A pro-police rally at the Vermont State House in Montpelier devolved when demonstrators hurled racist rants at Black Lives Matter counter-protestors.  

The demonstration in support of law enforcement began in the morning with about 250 attendees and guest speakers.  By afternoon, around 150 Black Lives Matter proponents joined the Capitol lawn and steps.  

One woman, who has now been identified as Denise Simonu of Montpelier, was captured on video in a tirade.  Carrying a pink cardstock sign, reading “God bless our police force,” she spewed expletives and wagged a finger. Simonu barked, “Black lives don’t matter at all to me!  White lives matter.”   She continued, saying that “Blacks have been coddled for years”, and citing “free college” as one example.  

Taunting counter protesters, Simonu sneered in a sing-song voice, “It’s still not enough, and never will be.”  When asked by counter-protester Zanevia Wilcox, whether she is a white supremacist, Simonu responded by flipping her sign around to reveal “BLM = Terrorist Organization”.  She reiterated, “Black lives don’t fucking matter to me” before walking off into the crowd.  

In less than a week, the video of Simonu was viewed on Facebook over 20,000 times and gathered nearly 500 shares.  It was also distributed on Instagram and Twitter.  

Wilcox, a Black student activist of Burlington at whom Simonu’s stream of abuse was directed, told us she did not even know the woman.  In fact, her racist rant was seemingly spurred by nothing.  Wilcox believes that this proves just how ingrained and insidious racism is in Vermont.   

. . . .

Wilcox hoped to simply show her presence at the protest as a Black, queer, female activist.  She said, “There aren’t many of us, which adds to the fact that these people [like Simonu] feel so comfortable being blatantly racist.” 

Wilcox expressed a desire to have conversations with those who take the position of white lives matter, but often feels misunderstood and mischaracterized by the media and fellow Vermonters.  Her focus is not to expose racists, but rather to share her perspective.  Unfortunately, Wilcox’s point of view frequently goes unacknowledged.

For Wilcox, the experience is wearying.  “The issue with Vermont”, she said, “is that everywhere I turn, I’m educating.”  She believes that Vermonters have a lot of unlearning to do, and is concerned by the state’s liberal self-image.  

“To consider Vermont progressive, even Burlington … [is to] neglect the Black voice”, said Wilcox.  She referenced a demonstrator at the protest who claimed that racism cannot exist in Vermont, since there are “no Black people.”  To the activist, Vermont’s accepted narrative and environment is not ready to reckon with the state’s racism.  White Vermonters can easily minimize their prejudices, considering that the Green Mountain State is the whitest in the nation.  

For now, Wilcox hopes that Vermonters will see, hear, and stand for the Black community.  “We are not afraid”, she asserted.  “Get people to action because Black Lives Matter. That should be enough.”

From Vermont to the world, Sophia Moore Smith is an investigator, gardener, reader, and lover of language.

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