1. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. Kiah Morris, Vermont Democratic legislator no longer seeking re-election after years of serious threats:
"That's the hard part about this, is that I realized -- in seeing what's happened over the last few years, in seeing the response and the lack of response that we've had. In just seeing how our system is not set up in a way to protect someone like me; I cannot be the legislator that I want to be. I cannot speak my truth in the way that need to have been said. I cannot do those things and be secure and be assured of the safety for myself or my family. And that is really unfortunate."
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. Kiah Morris, Vermont Democratic legislator no longer seeking re-election after years of serious threats:
"People are really taking to this, to say 'We need to do better and it's going to take all of us.' And we can't just place it on any one individual to make this work happen. It has to come from each and every one of us in order to even make a dent. And so, I do believe that Vermont has an opportunity to really lead the way within all of this and I see the support and the energy towards making that happen."
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. Kiah Morris, Vermont Democratic legislator no longer seeking re-election after years of serious threats:
"(Referring to threats on social media and how they're viewed by law enforcement) Because there is a component of harm that takes place, whether you want to say that it was protected speech or not and that has not been, I feel -- fully vetted and appreciated yet-- so we need to continue to interrogate that. These are the things that we have to do in order to make it better for the next person who wants to sit in this seat; for that next person who wants to be that courageous truth teller; and for even that local advocate or that child at a high school or whomever it might be that needs to have that protection, of feeling safe in their communities. Feeling supported. Feeling believed and validated that their lives and their experiences are important and that this type of action is completely unacceptable. The things that have happened to me that are completely unacceptable."
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. Kiah Morris, Vermont Democratic legislator no longer seeking re-election after years of serious threats:
"Are our law enforcement actually equipped, capable and knowledgeable enough to really deal with these types of complex cases? That on their face may seem like a simple act of vandalism but have so much more happening underneath. They don't have those capabilities."
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. Kiah Morris, Vermont Democratic legislator no longer seeking re-election after years of serious threats:
"When it comes to our state's attorney and they see these...the evidence and they're saying 'I can't move forward with charges because the statute's not strong enough,' that's a systemic failure that has to be addressed or; otherwise, everyone is left vulnerable."
Democratic lawmaker Kiah Morris has been threatened from the moment she became the first black woman to be elected into Vermont's Legislature in 2014.
And when the threats didn't stop and continued to evolve -- going as far as a break-in while the family was home and eventually escalating to vandalism and death threats seen by Morris' young son, Morris says she had no other choice but to resign.
"That's the hard part about this," she said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
"In just seeing how our system is not set up in a way to protect someone like me; I cannot be the legislator that I want to be," she added.
Tweets like the one she got following her Democratic primary win for re-election in 2016, showing a cartoon caricature of a black person along with a vulgar phrase rendered in ebonics, are just examples. The tweeter even threatened to come to rallies and stalk her, Morris says.
She soon won a protective order against the person stalking her online.
But even after announcing she wouldn't be seeking re-election, and while also running unopposed, a group of youths still showed up at her home one night. The group pounded on her windows and doors, and eventually forced her and her husband, who was convalescing after heart surgery, to leave town – all proving too much for the family, she said.
Morris said she was dissatisfied by the response from the Bennington Police Department when she reported the acts against her and her family. She calls it a "systematic failure" that leaves everyone "vulnerable."
Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery, and in 2000, it became the first to legally recognize same-sex civil unions – a precursor to gay marriage, among other things. But, Vermont is also 94.4 percent white, according to census statistics. And in recent years, like elsewhere in the country, racism has bubbled up.
Still, Morris says she's grateful to the attorney general's office and Vermont State Police, who are both investigating.
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