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April 7, 2005 - The Burlington Free Press
March protests violence against women
By Adam Silverman
Free Press Staff Writer
Less than a month after a Burlington woman was raped and killed by a stranger, a procession coiled through the city Wednesday evening to chant, sing and speak out against sexual violence.
"We are women! We are strong! Violence against us has lived too long!" members of the 150-person group chanted as they walked west on Pearl Street.
The half-hour march began at the University of Vermont and ended at City Hall, where survivors of crimes including rape, incest and molestation shared painful stories with the crowd.
The goal of the annual event, called Take Back the Night, is to shed light on sexual violence, allow survivors to share their experiences and have community leaders listen, said Ca- thleen Wilson, assistant director of the Women's Rape Crisis Center.
Mayor Peter Clavelle and Police Chief Thomas Tremblay attended the speak-out in Contois Auditorium.
Throughout the evening, many in the crowd turned their thoughts to Laura Winterbottom, 31, who police say was kidnapped March 8 from downtown Burlington, raped, beaten and strangled.
Gerald Montgomery, a 33-year-old convicted sex offender, has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and aggravated sexual assault; a kidnapping charge is pending. Court documents say there is no known connection between Montgomery and Winterbottom.
The slaying prompted a community outcry about the candor of Burlington's Police Department, which said nothing during the two weeks between Winterbottom's killing and Montgomery's arrest to indicate the killing was random.
"The whole way through the march, I was thinking about the violence in our community right now, and how we're all vulnerable right now," said Lindsay Jernigan, 31, of Duxbury. "For me, this is an opportunity to speak out."
The rally began as people converged on UVM's green on a warm spring afternoon. A group of six "radical cheerleaders" led the growing crowd in chants.
"Who do we want to run the nation?" the cheerleaders asked as they stood on a brick wall surrounding a fountain.
"Women and girls, yeah, yeah, yeah!" the crowd answered in unison.
Most of the participants were women, but many men also took part. Lucas Chapman, an 18-year-old UVM freshman from New Boston, N.H., said he attended because of Winterbottom's killing and his participation in a new campus group called Men Advocating Change.
"I'd really like to see our culture change in a way that makes sexual violence less common, and one of the ways to do that is by showing the community there are people working to end sexual violence," he said.
After a few more chants, the group began its march. People sang and chanted more. They carried brightly colored signs that read "Reclaim the streets" and "Stop rape!" Burlington police cars escorted the group and followed the procession. The drivers of oncoming cars tooted their horns in support, drawing huge cheers from the crowd.
People on sidewalks, front porches and outside Church Street shops paused and watched as the boisterous procession, which stretched more than a half block long, moved past. Jernigan said she was pleased so many people stopped to watch a rally against sexual violence.
"Everyone needs to hear about this," she said.
Contact Adam Silverman at 660-1854 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Burlington Police Department will offer training in the nationally recognized women's defense program R.A.D., or rape aggression defense, next month. The six-session program teaches a wide range of physical skills and tactics. Class dates are May 3, 5, 10, 12, 17 and 19. Classes will be held at the police department on North Avenue. Tuition is $50.
Information and registration: Cpl. Steve Dixon, 658-2704, Ext. 149.