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Locking arms for peace and against gun violence



“The violence has to stop because, if that’s our future, we’ve lost,” said a father at the Lock Arms for Peace vigil held in Providence Friday evening. “We’ve got to stand for something other than that. Guns are for war, not for killing each other in the streets.”

“May I ask you who you lost?” asked vigil organizer Diana Garlington, gently.

“My son, Teddy Roberts… Five years ago.”

Garlington lost her daughter Essence Christal, to gun violence eight years ago. Since then she’s been a strong advocate for nonviolence and gun safety. These vigils are annual events. This year, Garlington was joined by members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“As you know we experience high levels of gun violence in our City,” said Garlington. “The first year, me and Kobi Dennis decided we were going to bring peace back to our community by locking arms for peace.

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“In 2011 I lost my daughter to gun violence. She was killed in a drive by shooting on Broad Street in Providence,” continued Garlington. “So what I chose to do was bring unity and peace back into the community by becoming a community activist and bringing everyone together. I am also now, a Rhode Island Survivor Fellow, through Moms Demand Action.”

The vigil comes at a time when Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston), who has an A rating with the National Rifle Association (NRA), is cutting funds for the Nonviolence Institute, a group that has proven effective in combating violence in Rhode Island’s urban core. The cuts will result in a reduction of the Institute’s streetworker program, people who intervene and help prevent escalating gang violence and tensions.

Today the House will debate whether or not to restore that funding as Representative Joseph Almeida (Democrat, District 12, Providence) plans to enter an amendment to that effect.

The Speaker denies that he’s cutting funding to the institute for political reasons, as pointed out by The Public’s Radio‘s Ian Donnis, but Mattiello’s Speakership has been marked by petty, vindictive and retaliatory actions against political opponents. That’s too bad, because even though the Speaker’s district may not face the specter of gun violence, many in our state, including the residents of South Providence, do. If more people are harmed by gun violence as a result of the Speaker’s cuts, that’s on him.

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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 nearly a decade.