The North Smithfield Town Council held a special meeting Monday evening with the sole purpose of rescinding an anti-Nike, anti-Colin Kaepernick resolution passed one week ago that caused public outrage and made national news. Council President John Beauregard, who pushed the resolution through the Council last week despite the overwhelming opposition of town residents who showed up to speak on the resolution, called the meeting after public outrage and calls for his ouster.
Beauregard needed to make a statement that could bring the town together and begin the healing process for the Town, and begin to truly deal with issues of race and white supremacy.
“Clearly I made a mistake in having the Town take a formal position on this issue, said Beauregard. “But States and Municipalities have a history of not doing business with corporations for moral reasons. Our state recently did this. Our own state. This was not unprecedented, it was just unpopular.
“Our vote to overturn the resolution. I still believe that people who have truly sacrificed everything and whose faces should be on a poster are those officers who have given their lives in the line of duty and not someone who mocks their very existence. To my disappointment, some people perceive my position as racist.
“If my position offended some in the minority community, I assure you it was not my intention and I apologize for that. There’s clearly a large gap in the way we perceive things. This is something that’s got to be worked on by both sides.
“I also apologize to the people of North Smithfield for the unwanted attention this has brought. Some groups have actually called for protests at out children’s sporting events. Makes me wonder what kind of people make threats against innocent children just to make their political…”
The crowd erupted in protest. “Oh, shut up!” said a man. “Shut the fuck up!”
“Who said that?” asked Beauregard. “Who said that?”
“I did!” said an older man, shaking with rage.
“Out!” said Beauregard.
“Good!” said the man, heading for the exit.
A small group of Beauregard’s supporters applauded.
“Freedom of speech!” said a woman.
Beauregard ignored the comment and returned to his notes. “See? Now I lost my spot.”
“Good!” said a voice in the crowd.
“Personally,” said Beauregard, returning to his prepared notes, “The name calling and the vitriol does not bother me. But when you involve our children…”
“Our children aren’t involved!” yelled a man.
“I’m not going back and forth with you,” said Beauregard. “Any more – Listen, any more outbursts – this is going to be over in just five minutes – so any more outbursts, you’re just going to have to leave and you can do it outside.”
“Can we ask a question?” asked a man.
“No, this is not an open meeting,” said Beauregard.
“Is this how fascism works, Sir?” yelled yet another man.
“That’s exactly, yup,” replied Beauregard sarcastically.
More grumbling came from the crowd. It’s hard to hear what is said.
“One more comment from you and you’re going to have to leave,” said Beauregard.
“That’s unconstitutional,” said a man.
“No it’s not,” said Beauregard, then returning to his prepared notes, continued: “But when you involve our children and hard working business men and women in our town just to make your political point, I’m left with no choice but to do what is necessary for their sake. I’ll put the town and children first and reconsider.
“I’m sorry if I’m letting those people down who sent me letters of support this past week. I hope the next person who becomes the target of these types of people does a better job of standing up to them than I did.”
More outrage from the crowd. “Oh, you mean the whole town?” yelled a man.
“Playing the victim,” observed another man.
The motion to rescind the anti-Nike resolution was unanimous.
As the meeting ended, a woman yelled, “Vote them out!”
After the meeting was over I wasn’t sure if my camera had recorded the meeting or not. It had, but before I figured that out Jon Polen, a visual storyteller from Boston, was kind enough to let me use his camera footage, here:
Just watched an older man approach North Smithfield Town Councilmember Claire O’Hara, who voted for the anti-Nike resolution, and tell her that he and his wife would never vote for her again. @UpriseRI
— Steve Ahlquist (@steveahlquist) September 24, 2018
Before the Town Council meeting began, around 75 people gathered outside to hear from speakers and to stand or take a knee for a moment of silence. Council President John Beauregard stood and watched the speakers for a short time.
First up was Jim Vincent from the NAACP Providence Branch:
Cynthia Roberts from Engage North Smithfield!:
Bryant University student and member of the Bryant Democrats Quentin Law:
Every member of the North Smithfield Town Council except for Thomas McGee is up for re-election. There are five Town Councilors, and six people on the ballot. That means that even if the voters of North Smithfield want to replace their Town Council in the November 6 General Election, they will still be stuck with at least two of the three people who voted for the resolution. If those who voted for the resolution receive the least number of votes, then the new Town Council will consist of:
Teresa Bartomioli – voted against the resolution
Douglas Osier – new candidate
Paul Vadenais – new candidate
and two of incumbents below:
John Beauregard – voted for the resolution
Claire O’Hara – voted for the resolution
Paul Zwolenski – voted for the resolution
One way to deal with this is write-in candidates. North Smithfield resident Megan Staples has announced her intention to run as a write-in candidate. More may announce, but a write-in candidacy will need a lot of organizational power. We’ll see how that goes.
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