Gov. Phil Scott issued a call for unity on Wednesday following an incident in which a father and son were harassed while driving a car with New York State license plates.
The family is from New York City and owns a second home in Hartford, Vermont Public Radio reported later Wednesday. In a press release about the incident, Vermont State Police said the man, who is black, and his 11-year-old son were driving near their house last Friday when two vehicles flagged them down.
A white man then told the victim "that he was not wanted in Vermont and told to leave," police said. "There were significant racial undertones to the interaction."
At the press conference Wednesday, Scott said the man also told the victim that "the governor" didn't want him in Vermont, either.
"I have no tolerance for this kind of thing," Scott said. "It's unacceptable. It does not represent my views, or who I believe we are as a state."
Scott said he called the family this week to apologize "on behalf" of the state. He said he also told the family he was glad that they decided to move here and that Vermont is a "much more welcoming" place than was shown on that day.
The incident comes as some Vermonters have expressed concerns that the state's suppression of the coronavirus could be jeopardized by an influx of out-of-state arrivals. Vermont reported just two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and has averaged about three new cases daily over the last week.
From the start of the pandemic, state officials have tried to discourage travel into Vermont, asking tourists to stay home and shutting down lodging facilities to everyone but essential personnel.
Scott is expected to loosen some of those restrictions Friday by allowing lodging facilities to take in guests from Vermont and those from out-of-state who can verify they have completed a two-week quarantine. But the governor said he still believes that tourists should stay home for now.
Asked Wednesday whether he thought his comments could have given rise to the Hartford incident, Scott referred back to a statement he made six weeks ago, when he encouraged Vermonters to avoid adopting an "us versus them view of the world."
"I've consistently made the argument that we cannot let this be about us versus them, whether they're from another state or not," Scott said.
At the same time, a state-run online tool allows Vermonters to report those that they suspect of violating Scott's stay-at-home order. Some of the more than 270 complaints filed on the portal so far have been aimed at people believed to be from out of state. Police, in many cases, follow up on the complaints.
Scott noted that Vermonters have made immense sacrifices since he declared a state of emergency exactly two months ago. He said he understands that many people may be frustrated, anxious or angry at the situation. But he said the pandemic cannot be an excuse for "hate, bigotry or division of any type."
"This virus knows no border, and it doesn’t discriminate," he said. "We’re all in this together, and human decency will get us through this.”