By DANIEL KITTREDGE During last year's election cycle, many Republican candidates and officials faced questions about the party's leader, President Donald Trump. After last week's events in Washington, D.C. - which saw insurrectionists overrun the
During last year’s election cycle, many Republican candidates and officials faced questions about the party’s leader, President Donald Trump.
After last week’s events in Washington, D.C. – which saw insurrectionists overrun the Capitol building, delaying the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory and leaving two Capitol Police officers and others dead – those questions, and calls for GOP leaders to disavow the president, have returned with new intensity.
On Jan. 6 and in the days after, many of Cranston’s most prominent Republicans spoke out through statements or social media. While their messages differed in some respects, they were uniform in their condemnation of what unfolded in the nation’s capital.
Mayor Ken Hopkins, in a statement issued from his office during the events on Jan. 6, said he wished to “express my extreme personal outrage and tremendous concern over the protests and rioting being witnessed before the eyes of the world in Washington, D.C.”
“This is not the America I know or we grew up in,” the statement reads. “This is a time when we should be observing and celebrating the peaceful transfers of power in Washington, and in many state houses and local communities. Instead the world watches as disturbed protesters and uncontrolled mobsters disrupt the national certification of a new president’s election. They have endangered our elected representatives, themselves, law enforcement and National Guard members.”
The mayor’s statement continues: “There can never be any justification for this type of dangerous and disrespectful activity that threatens the cradle of our democracy and our governmental leaders. Shame on anyone who incited or encouraged this lawless behavior.”
Hopkins’s predecessor, Allan Fung, wrote on Twitter as events unfolded: “I’ve been a D and a R, but always an American first. This is insane. This is disgusting. But the weak statement from
@POTUS was just as bad. The election is over, Biden is the President-Elect, & the peaceful transfer of power our democracy deserves must happen.”
Fung’s wife, House District 15 Rep.-elect Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, wrote in her own tweet: “This mayhem is not how we address concerns. The rule of law & the police must be respected. Leave the Capitol building and peacefully protest outside. We are better than this.”
Republican City Council President Chris Paplauskas wrote on Facebook that he was “angered, saddened, and disgusted by the blatant acts of terrorism perpetrated today in our nation's Capitol.”
“This was a direct assault on our democracy, on our elected Congressmembers, and upon free elections and the peaceful transfer of power unlike any we have seen before,” he added. “Any leader who fails to recognize that should be condemned, including the current President. As my 13-year-old son and I watch live TV, our eyes are filled with tears. Tears for our Country, for what it stands for and for its democratic values. What is going on in the Capitol is appalling and treasonous. My thoughts, prayers, and support are with those threatened and harmed today by this violent mob who intended, but will fail, to overturn our Constitution and our democratic-republic. Those who perpetrated these despicable acts must be justly punished to the fullest extent the law allows. A direct attack on our democratic institutions is an attack on us all, our peace, our freedom, and our way of life.”
In a social media post, Michael Farina, the immediate past council president who joined the Republican Party in 2016 and ran for mayor last year, urged others in the GOP to “own the mistake of electing Trump and tell America Republicans were wrong.”
“Elected Republicans across this country enabled this behavior and now want to try to walk away,” he wrote. “This has been brewing for months and that’s why I walked away from supporting Trump after my primary … When things don’t go your way, regardless of how, you need to take the high road and leave with grace. What going on in Washington is wrong and I can’t stand by President Trump or his comments. All people Republican and Democrat should condemn this behavior.”
Republican Citywide Councilwoman Nicole Renzulli, who was elected to her first term in November, wrote on Facebook that while some of those who took part in Jan. 6 demonstrations in Washington were there “to exercise their first amendment right to peacefully assemble and protest, others sought to riot and violently degrade the Capitol.”
“It is that group who must be condemned for their actions,” she wrote. “I wholeheartedly and unequivocally condemn the actions of the rioters that stormed the U.S. Capitol and caused so much destruction yesterday. They have stained the reputation of the United States and deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
She added: “I believe President Trump’s rhetoric since the Election has been the words of a sore loser. He lost the election to Joe Biden and was not able to offer any evidence of voter fraud. His continued baseless claims of fraud have fueled distrust that has enflamed anger and incited violence at the U.S. Capitol. I will not defend him. I will not violate my oath. I will not reject democracy in favor of chaos and anarchy. I am disgusted and very saddened … Embarrassed even. Trump is wrong. Those rioting for Trump are wrong. Those in power who continue to defend Trump are also wrong.”
Don Roach, who ran for a citywide council seat on the Republican ticket last year, shared an impassioned post on Facebook addressing the situation and sharply criticizing the GOP’s overall response.
“I’m fed up. Throughout this year I’ve had to watch a number of black men and women lose their lives just living while black. I’ve seen others treated worse than we treat the gum at the bottom of our shoes,” he wrote. “My wife has awoken me at midnight to tell me my sons don’t want to be black because they want to be treated like a human. And they worry that with their skin color they won’t be treated like a human.”
Singling out state Rep. Justin K. Price, who has falsely suggested the siege of the Capitol was perpetrated by left wing activists, he added: “And now … a state Rep from my party here in RI said that most of the people who stormed the Capitol were either ANTIFA or BLM supporters … ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!?!”
Roach continued: “I will always support anyone’s right to protest. People wanted to go down to DC and claim that the election was stolen from Trump. I think that’s insane but hey, do you and do it peacefully. Most protesters did. At least several hundred did not. To claim that people who killed a Capitol police officer, mockingly sat in Congressional offices, smiled while they stole artifacts from the Capitol building were mainly ANTIFA or Black Lives Matter supporters is just enough for me.”
Roach suggested that “perhaps those of us in the middle need to start a new party. A party where we respect others’ choices, agree to disagree, and own our own crap.”
He added: “Last but not least, one of these jokers in the Capitol building rocked the Confederate flag, you know those folks who refused to recognize people like myself are equal to them and took up arms against the government. I’m not sure if that flag has ever been in the Capitol building before this week and it’s embarrassing people like Price refuse to acknowledge how awful this (I’ll call it) terrorist attack was and that it was committed by people who are garden variety Trump supporters. It’s shameful.”
Former Ward 2 City Council member Don Botts, who no longer lives in the city and left the Republican Party in 2017 after the white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, wrote a social media post rejecting any equivalency between last week’s events and the large social justice demonstrations that occurred in 2020.
“I see a lot of posts trying to rationalize today’s events with BLM protests in the past. Never mind the 2 wrongs don’t make a right axiom,” he wrote. “The main difference is today’s rioters were directly incited by the President of the United States, who took an oath to defend the Constitution. He led an insurrection upon our government. If you support 1% of what occurred today, you are not a patriot and you are un-American.”