A Burlington man has been directing a barrage of racist emails to members of the Vermont Legislature.
In June, Christopher Hayden was charged with disturbing the peace by electronic means, with a hate crime enhancement, after calling Democratic Party Chairman Faisal Gill a “agent for creeping Sharia law” who should “get out [of Vermont] or we will make you wish you did.”
Over the last month, Hayden has sent at least eight emails to members of the Vermont House and Senate, some of which contain racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments.
Matthew Romei, the chief of the Capitol Police Department, sent an email to all lawmakers Friday. encouraging them “not to respond to the writer directly.”
In an interview Monday, Romei said Hayden has “been a rather prolific writer over the summer” and that his department is closely monitoring the exchanges.
“And where they cross the line from First Amendment freedoms into a threat of violence or intimidation, either we have taken action or another agency has followed up on,” Romei says.
None of the mass emails obtained by VPR that were sent by Hayden to lawmakers include any specific threats of violence. They do, however, include a number of racist and anti-Islamic passages.
Hayden was charged with disturbing the peace in June for alleged online harassment of a state representative from Burlington.
“Really right now what we’re waiting on is for the cases to work their way through the courts,” Romei says.
Gill, the nation’s first-ever Muslim chairperson of a state political party, received three threatening emails from Hayden within a seven-day period in May. The party’s Montpelier headquarters was on lockdown for a period of time after the threats were made.
The case involving Gill isn’t the first time Hayden has been charged with a hate crime. In December of 2015, Burlington police arrested Hayden after people reported he was making threats and using racial slurs toward people of color on Church Street.
Romei's email to lawmakers Friday included guidance on "blocking offensive email."