By DANIEL KITTREDGE The contrasting scenes that have played out in communities across the country in recent days came to Rhode Island this week. Over the weekend, hundreds of demonstrators took part in a peaceful Providence gathering as part of a
The contrasting scenes that have played out in communities across the country in recent days came to Rhode Island this week.
Over the weekend, hundreds of demonstrators took part in a peaceful Providence gathering as part of a nationwide protest movement.
Then, overnight from Monday into Tuesday, a chaotic scene played out in Providence as rioters engaged in looting and violence.
During a conference call Monday, ahead of the riots, Gov. Gina Raimondo spoke of the unrest that has emerged following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other incidents in which African Americans have died at the hands of police.
“COVID has brought to the forefront the racial inequities that have existed for a long time in this country, that are ingrained in our society, across our society – in education, in health care, in housing, in wage inequality … and so much more,” she said.
She added: “For those of us who are privileged enough such that we can go for a jog or go to the grocery store or live our lives without fear … the tragedy that we’ve seen has to be a wake-up call, for all of us, that institutional racism exists throughout our society and we need to do more to deal with it and eliminate it.”
Locally, a number of elected leaders and candidates have issued their own statements regarding the recent events.
Larry Warner, a Democratic candidate for a citywide seat on the City Council, said events like the killings of Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia “are a stark reminder that racism continues to be a significant problem in our society in 2020.”
“The shocking deaths of black and brown people, and the systemic oppression of communities of color prevents us from achieving our potential as a nation,” he said.
Warner said elected leaders “have a moral obligation to call out these injustices and to pursue changes and adopt policies which protect our neighbors at the local level.”
Citizens, too, have a responsibility, he said.
“Civic engagement has never been more important. Voting for candidates who share your commitment to justice and equity will accelerate the change our democracy deserves,” he said.
In the same statement, Ward 1 Councilwoman Lammis Vargas said Floyd’s death is a reminder of “generational pain” for communities of color.
“What this does, it continues to adversely impact the way our community (African American and Latinx) continues to see law enforcement,” she said. “As a Latina elected official, we must do our part and continue to emphasize the importance of diversity and equity training for police departments and all areas of public government, while encouraging corporations and nonprofits to do the same.”
She added: “We must use the many platforms before us as a way to be vocal about injustice and racism, but we must start using our constitutional right as Americans to be registered voters, vote, and have more people of color run for office at all levels of government.”
Citywide Councilman Ken Hopkins, a candidate for mayor, issued a statement on Tuesday calling for “community calm and respect.”
“Over the last week we have watched other cities and states deal with moments of peaceful protests grow into senseless acts of violent and destruction,” Hopkins said. “Collectively we thought and prayed please don’t let that happen here. Now we watch our morning news to see that our neighboring capitol city has been victimized last night with unlawful acts of looting, vandalism and property damage to undeserving business owners and downtown structures.”
Hopkins in the statement said Floyd’s death “cannot be justified in any civilized society.”
“We have sadly stepped back in our journey of equality and justice for all Americans,” he said. “I am from a family of law enforcement members. My brothers learned to treat every person they encounter with respect and proper procedures under the law … Our community needs our public, civic, religious and educational leaders to collectively work to get us through these days of stress and turmoil. But for today it starts with insuring safe neighborhoods and the protection of our citizens.”