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Michael Correia attributes racist comment to fellow Councilmember Ryan – Ryan denies, threatens lawsuit



On Sunday afternoon Providence City Councilmember Michael Correia (Ward 6) took to Facebook to attribute comments Correia characterized as “a little racist” to Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5).

“Ward 5 residents….

Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan’s statement regarding Annual Carnival at George West Par. “I don’t like the type of people it attracts, I don’t like those type of people.” Councilwoman it attracts neighborhood families / neighborhood youth. Sounds a little racist to me. Now she’s out asking for your support.”

According to Correia, Ryan made these comments in 2017. In 2018 Correia and Ryan attended the Carnival together.

On Monday morning Ryan hit back, characterizing Correia’s accusation as an “attack upon my character, shameful and personally offensive. These are damnable lies and are actionable.”

Ryan says the motive for Correia’s accusation is political, “the desperate gasp of a failing campaign [Correia] has chosen to support, in an effort to return city politics to a time long since passed.”

Can we please ask a favor?

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Correia is publicly supporting Steven Cianci, the 61-year old cousin of former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, in the Democratic against Ryan. Also in the primary is progressive challenger Aaron Jaehnig.

Correia is running unopposed.

Ryan released the following statement:

Councilman Correia (Ward 6) recently posted on social media false and outrageous statements that he attributed to me. I find this attack upon my character shameful and personally offensive.  These are damnable lies and are actionable. This attack upon me is the sign of a failing campaign.

I am a senior ranking female member of the Providence City Council and the endorsed Democratic candidate for council in Ward 5.

It is apparent this is an insider network’s desperate attempt designed to return public service in the city to the dark days of the past. I will not be intimidated; we have come too far to turn back. I ran for public office to improve the quality of life for all residents of the Fifth Ward and to reform city government. I am proud of my record. I am proud of what I have accomplished in my first term as Councilwoman for the Fifth Ward.

Councilman Correia’s reckless attack upon me on social media is the desperate gasp of a failing campaign he has chosen to support, in an effort to return city politics to a time long since passed.  I will stay focused. I will continue to work for the people of the Fifth Ward as I always have. And I will continue to work to improve the quality of life for my constituents in Ward 5 and will continue to fight for reform and transparency in City government.

Nonetheless, Councilman Correia has knowingly published false statements he attributed to me as fact and I am exploring all of my options, both legal and otherwise, in a thoughtful and professional manner.

Social Justice Organizer David Veliz, a supporter of Aaron Jaehnig’s campaign to take Ryan’s city council seat commented:

In light of comments that Providence City Councilwoman Ryan allegedly said about folks at a carnival, and in light of the recent Rhode Island political blunders, I started thinking about what it really means to be an ally and anti-racist. As an activist and policy advocate I have seen many people say the right thing around the right crowd. It’s easy to make a crowd clap if you say what they want to hear. However if you are a true ally then you prove it with your actions. You prove it by showing up for communities of color even before an election. You prove it by always siding with front line communities even if it’s not the popular thing, but you do it because it’s the right thing.

I don’t usually get behind candidates or involved in local campaigns but no longer can we wait and hope to see if a candidates words are true. In this tumultous and toxic political climate it is more necessary then ever to have true allies representing the needs of communities of color. That is why I support Aaron Jaehnig for Ward 5 in the Providence City Council race. Not Because he is my friend, and not because I think he is a nice guy, but because I have seen him show up and prove his words with actions and gain the trust of POC not by elevating himself but by lifting up the community.

Here’s the Providence City Council announcement about Ryan and Correia’s joint appearance at this year’s carnival:

Here’s a link to Correia’s Facebook post:

More on this from Dan McGowan at Channel 12/WPRI:

Feud over carnival sparks war of words between Providence councilors

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.