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LaFortune accuses Igliozzi of appropriating her work on police accountability at Finance Committee hearing



This is oppressive behavior,” said LaFortune, before being muted for a final time.

Your statements are offensive behavior,” said Igliozzi.

On Tuesday afternoon Providence City Councilmember John Igliozzi (Ward 7), who chairs the City Council Finance Committee, announced via a press release that he had started a petition asking the Rhode Island General Assembly to repeal the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBoR).

In his press release, Igliozzi says that during a Finance Committee hearing he held last week in which he invited “community advocates, members of the City Council, the Commissioner and the Chief of Police, as well as the President of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)” he learned that “…Rhode Island is one of 12 states to have a Police Officers’ Bill of Rights, and our state law is one of the most restrictive. I believe that if we are going to have real change in our police and community relations, we need to start here. If there is a bad apple, we don’t want it to spoil the whole bunch, and LEOBR prevents us from making a real change when we have officers that are accused of violence.”

The petition can be found here.

At the Finance Committee meeting held Tuesday evening, Igliozzi asked his fellow City Councilmembers to get as many people as possible from their districts to sign the petition. “I’m asking all my Council colleagues to support that initiative, sign on board, sign the petition, let their family and friends know about it,” said Igliozzi.

Councilmember Helen Anthony (Ward 2) told Igliozzi that though she appreciates his efforts on this issue, “Councilwoman LaFortune has also been working on this issue for a long time.”

Anthony is a member of the Finance Committee, Councilmember Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3) is not. Anthony told the Committee that LaFortune had something to say. Due to some technical issue, LaFortune did not have the ability to “raise her hand” in the Zoom meeting. She didn’t have that function available to her, hence Anthony’s introduction.

“I put in a resolution on Friday so that it could be on the docket for this Thursday, requesting that the state repeal the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights,” said LaFortune.

It should be noted that Igliozzi is aware of this resolution, because he added his name as a co-sponsor. LaFortune also reminded Igliozzi that she spoke about this issue at last week’s meeting.

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“I just want to make a note,” said LaFortune. “Part of the whole movement and why people are calling for us to really hold our police officers accountable – to look at the oppressive structures and systemic racism that currently exists within our society – is that for centuries Black bodies have been deemed invisible or less than.

“And I’m just thinking about this whole initiative that you’re launching, and it just feels like that was an idea that was appropriated because someone else – who happened to be a person of color, did the work, did the research, put in the resolution on Friday to be introduced this Thursday, and all of a sudden, you [Igliozzi] have taken the credit…

“This is part of the issue,” said LaFortune. “These continuous, oppressive behaviors in which Black bodies are invisible. So basically all of this work that’s been done, by someone of color, is taken by someone else…”

LaFortune told Igliozzi that she would hope that members of the City Council could be more thoughtful and set an example as to how to do this work.

Igliozzi ignored LaFortune’s points, and instead asked her to support his petition and suggested that his petition and LaFortune’s resolution shows that “all of us are rowing in the same direction.”

“Chairman, I don’t think you’re acknowledging what I’m saying,” said LaFortune.

Igliozzi interrupted LaFortune, saying that the petition, the resolution, and the direction the Council is going in is a “positive thing.”

“It’s not it not being a positive thing,” said LaFortune. “What is important for you to acknowledge is that this is the kind of work that you want to do, and that you understand why this Bill of Rights needs to be repealed…

“I think you also have to acknowledge what I’m trying to say around appropriating work that’s being done by someone else of a minoritized community and it being taken as your own. So it’s not collaborative.

“If we’re acknowledging why this movement exists, then we have to recognize our own internalized behaviors and biases and try to address them in order for us to move forward.,” said LaFortune. “Because what you did is not okay and you’re not even acknowledging what you did or taking any form of accountability.”

“Councilwoman,” countered Igliozzi, “I recognize what you said. I just don’t agree with what you said. Because I think what you’re saying is inappropriate, unfortunately.”

“This isn’t about me, it isn’t about you,” said Igliozzi.

“It’s clearly about you,” countered LaFortune. “It’s obviously the mindset – the mindset in which you’re approaching this is the same mindset that has -“

At this point, Igliozzi muted LaFortune.

“Councilwoman, you’ve been muted because you have not been acknowledged,” said Igliozzi.

LaFortune unmuted herself.

“That mindset is the same mindset that has disproportionate -” she began, and then was muted again by Chair Igliozzi.

As LaFortune continued to address the committee, perhaps unaware that she had been muted, Igliozzi continued the meeting. LaFortune was silenced for 38 seconds.

“It’s sad that we’re trying to do a positive thing and people feel that way, all right? But I’m going to move onto the next thing now,” said Igliozzi.

Twice more LaFortune managed to unmute herself, only to be muted by Iggliozzi.

“Madam Councilperson please respect the process,” said Igliozzi. “Please respect the rules of Robert’s Rules of Order. I understand you have a hard time with the rules. I recognize that…”

“Again, an inappropriate comment,” said LaFortune, before being muted again.

“You muted me while I had -” said LaFortune before she was muted.

“And you’re doing it again! -” she said, before being muted again.

“Yes we will,” said Igliozzi. “We’re going to mute you so I can move on with the meeting.”

“This is oppressive behavior,” said LaFortune, before being muted for a final time.

“Your statements are offensive behavior,” said Igliozzi.

LaFortune left the Zoom meeting, and the Finance Committee continued on.

See also:
Providence City Council Finance Committee meeting besieged by racist trolls

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.