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Lauren Niedel: Glocester considers Second Amendment Sanctuary Town status



Glocester, on Thursday, became the sixth western Rhode Island location to hold a Second Amendment Sanctuary City town council hearing. There was plenty of discussion leading up to it on the very active Glocester Facebook group and the Town Hall was packed – 84 people in the meeting room with as many, if not more, unable to find a seat gathered outside in the hallway.

The meeting, was for comments only and was included in the regular town council meeting and was not a stand alone hearing. The Council did not provide people a copy of the resolution to review because they did not have one written, which is an interesting concept: Have a discussion without any reference point to make comments. Also interesting was Glocester Town Council member Patricia Henry’s opening comments approving and voting yes on a resolution that did not even exist.

Patricia Henry

The opening statement was provided by Town Council President George (Buster) Steere Jr, He came out in favor of the concept of the resolution pointing out the lack of respect that northwestern Rhode Island gets in the State House. Erroneously saying that Rhode Island is a “sanctuary state” and that northwestern Rhode Island towns are at the mercy of Providence and other large cities when it comes to financial burdens especially for the Foster/Glocester school district.

Glocester does has a legitimate gripe. The state makes Glocester pay for the poor management of other town budgets. Glocester, has a AA bond rating. Financially the town does an outstanding job which is why the Town’s council members are popular. Glocester has been voted the safest place to live in Rhode Island three years in row.

Council President Steere also pointed out how Governor Gina Raimondo has not visited the Town or attended major events that the Town Council has invited her too. These are legitimate concerns and may be why the Town feels that by claiming Second Amendment Sanctuary Town status they are making a political point and trying to get attention towards this northwestern Rhode Island rural town.

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Only Glocester residents were allowed to present comments to the Town Council and most of those residents were gun owners. Those is support echoed much of what has already been stated at other meetings throughout the State where Second Amendment Sanctuary Town resolutions were considered and approved. However, there were many people speaking out against the resolution, which was a very positive sign. In Foster, only three people were opposed. Glocester had around 15 people who provided comments against the idea of a resolution.

There was however, some ugliness which cannot be ignored. Most disturbing of all was the woman who used the Holocaust inspired poem by Martin Niemöller, First they came…” and mangled it with pro-gun verses. It was completely revolting and horribly antisemitic. Also disturbing was the wildly enthusiastic applause the woman received from the pro resolution members of the audience.

The opponents, however, were truly inspiring. There were some wonderful testimony and insightful quotes from residents.

“There is no funding for mental health,” said former State Representative Ellen Kellner, a social worker for 48 years. “Our community health programs were all cut under Reagan so those who need help can’t get it.”

Due to feelings of intimidation, most of those testifying against the potential resolution preferred to be anonymous for this piece. Here are some selected quotes:

“It was disheartening to see people rightfully exercising their first amendment rights booed and mocked by the very same people demanding we respect constitutional rights. The hypocrisy is glaring, particularly in repeating that they are ‘law-abiding’ citizens… who are proudly claiming they would refuse to follow the (potential) law.”

“It was my first town hall meeting tonight. And it was to express my opposition to the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution for Glocester. I voiced my concerns in a sea of people who were on the other side of the argument. It was scary and probably pointless but nonetheless I feel accomplished because I didn’t let them scare me into silence. I’m proud of all the people that spoke out to oppose or express their concerns even though there were attempts to intimidate us.”

“They couldn’t keep control of the room. Allowed us to be booed and harassed. Not to mention going way off topic. They just kept reinforcing not letting them take away the second amendment -nobody ever said they were taking that away. This BS is ‘in case’ with an imaginary resolution.”

“The gun enthusiasts are always trying to frame gun regulations as this slippery slope to Nazism. But this is so false. The real common ground is that gun lovers and authoritarian states both see violence as a solution to conflicts.”

In the end there was no vote. Just an agreement that an actual resolution would be written. To the credit of the Glocester Town Council, they will be writing their resolution from scratch and not rubber stamping the manifesto that was written at the behest of the Prayer Boysa right wing hate group originating out of Washington State, and unlike other meetings there was some opposition to the term “Sanctuary City.” It remains to be seen if this term will be left out when the resolution is finished.

The Glocester Town Council has scheduled the next meeting on this topic for June 6.

Lauren Niedel is currently a member of the RI Democratic State Committee - serving her 2nd term on the Platform Committee. She has been reelected for 2018-2022 session. She was also the State contact and delegate for the Bernie 2016 campaign.