Tyler Austin, 18, of South Burlington Vermont was arrested on a felony charge for allegedly spray-painting racist graffiti on an athletic field, the Burlington Free Press reports.
“I hope that this will send a message, as have other actions we’ve taken in this community, that we take these things really seriously,” South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple said at a news conference. “Our entire community is offended by this type of behavior. It’s not acceptable.”
Chief Whipple said the investigation is ongoing and the prosecutor may add more charges, but that the initial charge of felonious unlawful mischief could carry a prison sentence of five years and up to $5,000 in fines.
“Isaiah Hines, the recent South Burlington High School grad who led the push to drop the Rebels nickname, has said he was the target of the graffiti, and that it referred to him by name as a ‘dumb n*gger,'” Seven Days reported.
Last month, Seven Days profiled Isaiah Hines and his successful campaign to drop the “Rebels” team name from South Burlington High School.
“I was horrified. Horrified,” his mother, Krishna Hines, said. “When the school called me to tell me what was written, I was in tears.”
Now another member of Hines’ graduating class has been charged with the racist graffiti. Tyler Austin also graduated from South Burlington High School in June.
“I don’ t know him at all,” Hines said. “I never really had any sort of interaction with him.”
A third member of their class was charged with making death threats, including against Hines.
Josiah Leach, 18, was arrested after his alleged threats resulted in two days of lockdowns and a third day of canceled classes. The threats were said to be retribution for the school board’s decision to drop the “Rebels” nickname.
— MyNBC5 (WPTZ) (@MyNBC5) June 7, 2017
The vandalism occurred as voters approved school budget by a vote of 3,146 to 2,067. Two previous budget votes had failed, with opposition to dropping the name “Rebels” cited as a cause of the defeats.
The name “Rebels” honors Confederate soldiers who took up arms to defend slavery in the American Civil War.
Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery. Vermont sent over 34,000 troops to defend the Union during the Civil War. Vermonters paid a high price to end slavery with 1,832 men killed in combat, 3,362 perishing from disease and 615 dying in prisoner of war camps.
Hines, the young man who led the charge to remove the offensive team name, received early admission to study this fall at Columbia University.
Watch the initial WCAX News report on the racial turmoil in South Burlington, VT: