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Bristol residents stage demonstration outside the home of accused child molester



As I approached the demonstration happening outside the home of David Barboza in Bristol, a man drove by in a car, beeping his horn and saying, “Lock him up, throw away the key!”

Barboza, a former Bristol Town Councilor, has been named as the defendant in a lawsuit brought by Robert Powers, who has accused Barboza of molesting him nearly 100 times over a four year period in the 1970s. Barboza was recently the grand marshal for the 2014 Bristol Fourth of July Parade.

Robert Powers, left

The demonstration was organized by Joseph DeMelo, a lifelong Bristol resident who describes himself as a grandfather and formerly served on several boards and commissions in the town. DeMelo has on occasion worked with Barboza on behalf of the town..

One reason for the demonstration, said DeMelo, “is to show folks, who have reached out to me, where this gentleman actually lives. There are children who walk by here to a bus stop, [and their parents] just didn’t know, and the kids walk by here several times a day during the school year.

“If [Barboza] had gotten charged in 1982, which he didn’t, he would be on the sexual offender list,” continued DeMelo.” So evidently, with no charge, he’s not. This is one of the reasons for this gathering, so folks know [that] when my kids come by here, let’s pay attention.”

DeMelo is also concerned about the victims. “What happened to the victims, they’re never going to heal. What happened to them, unfortunately they’re living with it. This is for the future. Boys and girls are getting abused every day in every community. This has got to stop.”

Joseph DeMelo

The demonstration occurred under the watchful eye of several Bristol Town Police officers. The officers did not interfere with the event, but did at one point tell people to stay on the sidewalk and off the street.

“I thank the Bristol Police Department for showing up,” said DeMelo. “My biggest prerequisite for this gathering was that I want this to be peaceful. As you can see, it is. We can’t control everyone but most folks got spoken to as they arrived. Just keep it cool, that’s all we want. Because he still deserves that right, no matter how anybody feels, he still deserves that right of a peaceful protest. I had faith in the Town of Bristol, I had faith in the Town’s residents, and they proved me right. They’re being classy.”

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Earlier in the day, Governor Gina Raimondo ceremonially signed into law a bill that extends the statute of limitations on abuse cases like this. The bill will not help the victims who are alleging abuse by Barboza, however, since the bill is not retroactive.

“I know what the Governor signed today,” said DeMelo. “Nothing is going to change with that.”

In recent days Barboza name has been removed from the Bristol Fourth of July Parade website. But this isn’t enough for DeMelo and others.

“Another layer of this big onion is the coverups, going back 30 years,” said DeMelo. “People didn’t come out about it, everybody knew. Everyone grew up in this town knowing about the Perry brothers. The Perry brothers are serving time right now, for child molestation. People have heard about this gentleman {Barboza] for years, and no one did anything.

“The older folks [in our community] just brush it under the rug. It was something that, back in the seventies, back in the eighties, people said, ‘Let’s not get involved, let’s hush.’ Even if it happened to their own family member, which it did, and these people just won’t come out. Now, the way social media is, look around. Social media is going to bring a lot of people out. It’s going to take a lot of predators, hopefully, out of the game.,” continued DeMelo.

“Besides the gentleman who’s alleged, I want to see the people who covered this up for twenty, thirty years, the town fathers, police, fire – not the new people, now – the new people now weren’t involved back then,” said DeMelo. “Those people who are still alive need to be held accountable, just as Barboza is].”

“Some of the people you want to hold accountable for covering this up have been grand marshals themselves, right?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” said DeMelo. “People on that committee, their chairperson now, is defending him. She’s defending him now.”

“You’d like to see all their names removed from the Parade’s website?” I asked.

“Absolutely. They’re just as guilty as the predator,” said DeMelo.

“So more heads should fall,” I began.

“Yes,” said DeMelo. “This isn’t a witch hunt for anyone, but people have got to be held accountable.”

“There’s nothing worse than promoting a predator,” a woman who had been listening to our conversation interjected, “Making him the chief marshal of the Bristol Parade? That sucks. To everyone in this town who’s ever been molested, and there have been some, to make him a chief marshal? That’s a sin.”

On of the perks of being a grand marshal of the Bristol Fourth of July Parade is a stripe in the driveway of your home similar to the one painted along the parade route.

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.