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Rally to Reopen RI draws few protesters

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How many people here would like to see the churches reopen? How many people still believe in the United States of America and freedom? How many people support President Trump and his efforts?


According to host John DePetro, the Reopen Rhode Island Rally held on Monday afternoon outside the State House was organized by Mark Smiley, former chair of the Rhode Island Republican Party, and Mark Zaccaria, a frequent Republican candidate for office.

John DePetro

In all the event lasted a little over an hour. The rally was held to call on Governor Gina Raimondo to end her COVID-19 executive orders and reopen the state completely. Most of those who addressed the crowd of about 60 people had run for office as Republicans in the last decade or so.

Most of the speakers kept to the concerns of small businesses who are feeling the effects of the shut down, or to the issue of churches not being allowed to hold services. But DePetro, a Woonsocket based radio host with a small conservative following, pushed the rally into racism when he said, “A big part of the spread is illegal aliens. They’re giving the illegal aliens 500 a month. Let me hear you if you agree with me. I say, no money for the illegals! This is a perfect time to start the deportations! This is not a Sanctuary City, this belongs to the people!”

DePetro also seemed to diminish the lives of the elderly, saying that, “the median age [of people who die from COVID-19] in Rhode Island is 82! They have destroyed our economy because people 100 years old are dying in nursing homes. The nursing homes is on the state, not on you!”

DePetro played to his usual tropes, religion, patriotism and Trump.


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“How many people here would like to see the churches reopen?” asked DePetro rhetorically. “How many people still believe in the United States of America and freedom? How many people support President Trump and his efforts? How many people feel Governor Raimondo has gone too far? Reopen the state! Bring back your liberty!

“100 people at a Walmart yet 10 at a funeral and church is still closed. We need to reopen those churches!”

In all, maybe 60 people stood in the rain to attend the rally. About two dozen cars continuously circled the State House, honking horns, waving flags and sporting Trump 2020 and “Knock it Off Gina” signs.



Here’s video of the rest of the speakers:

Before DePetro took the microphone, Mark Smiley, former chair of the Rhode Island Republican Party, warmed up the crowd.

Former State Senator Frank Maher Jr once occupied Senate District 34, the seat currently held by Senator Elaine Morgan.

Steve Delory, co-owner of Kim & Steve’s Masthead Grill in Warwick, was one of the few speakers who had not run as a Republican in an election.

Michael Penta was the Republican candidate for House District 21 in Warwick. He was defeated by Camille Vella Wilkinson.

Barbara Holmes is a pastor and CPA. She is the only woman to speak at the rally and one of the two speakers who has not run for office in Rhode Island.

Mark Smiley again.

Pastor David Aucoin lost the Senate District 32 race to Cynthia Armour Coyne in 2018.

John DePetro finished the rally off…

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. atomicsteve@gmail.com