Prayer vigil held to oppose Governor McKee’s encampment eviction order
The prayer vigil was gathered in response to the announcement from Governor Daniel McKee that he was giving the unhoused people camping on the State House grounds 48 hours to vacate or risk the possibility of arrest and/or fines.
“If you want to say a prayer, say a prayer,” said the Reverend Duane Clinker from the Mathewson Street Church in downtown Providence last night to the nearly 200 people in a large circle on the Rhode Island State House Plaza. “God can hear if you talk quiet but we can’t so talk up. If you want to just make a protest because you don’t pray, make a protest. A sentence. Two sentences. Why are we here? What do we want? Fair enough?”
The prayer vigil was gathered in response to the announcement from Governor Daniel McKee that he was giving the unhoused people camping on the State House grounds 48 hours to vacate or risk the possibility of arrest and/or fines. The ACLU sent a letter to the Governor’s Administration calling into question the legality of the eviction.
Meanwhile, Governor McKee continues to dispute the scale of the homelessness crisis in Rhode Island, claiming that there are 80+ encampments in Rhode Island is untrue. Governor McKee is wrong, and made these claims despite evidence to the contrary. Advocates stress that these numbers are accurate and that there are simply not enough shelter beds to deal with the problem.
The Prayer Vigil was organized by many different groups, including the Mathewson Street Church, the Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign, Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) and Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE). The event was presented as “an event of solidarity with the unhoused, those experiencing housing insecurity and those seeking a solution to affordable housing in Rhode Island. We are building a broad coalition of folks who want to push Governor Dan McKee and other politicians to address this housing crisis once and for all.”
“We gather tonight to remember the presence of God in our midst,” said Sister Mary Pendergast from the Sisters of Mercy and the Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign. “If we have been taught anything about God, it is that God hears the cy of the poor. And even more than that, God has what we might call a preferential option, a soft spot, for the poor. And even more than that, God makes God’s home among the poor, among those who live on the street and in shelters, the ill, the immigrants, the marginalized, the refugees. This is where God is. “
“I just want to take a moment, a moment of silence for the 76 lives lost due to being homeless and unsheltered,” said Terri Wright, an organizer at DARE. “I pray that the evictions that are supposed to happen tomorrow are reversed and that some actual, real shelter is given to every person that needs it to suit their situation and not just throw families and individuals into a building but treat the with dignity and meet them at their needs.”
Each person at the vigil then took an opportunity to speak, or not, as they so chose. See video below for all the speakers, though some are hard to hear.
It was at this rally that the public was first informed that Attorney Richard Corley was filing an injunction against the eviction in Superior Court on Friday morning at 9:30am. [At the Friday morning hearing Judge David Cruise stayed the eviction pending a hearing on Wednesday discussing the merits of the case.]
Mark is 63 years old, a member of the Mathewson Street Church, and currently unhoused. “We all need to learn to love one another,” said Mark.
Pastor Carl Jefferson, one of the tri-chairs of the Rhode island poor people’s Campaign.
Pamela Poniatowski, one of the tri-chairs of the Rhode island poor people’s Campaign.
Rhode Island State Senator Cynthia Mendes.
A closing prayer from the Reverend Duane Clinker, encouraging people to attend the rally on Friday morning.