Around 90 people gathered in front of the Warren Town Hall on Sunday afternoon to show solidarity against the appearance of racist, KKK and Nazi-inspired hate stickers put up along Water Street along the commons.
“We’re going to take it seriously because we know it’s not kids and we know it’s not boys being boys, and that racism is a pandemic, just as much as COVID-19 is,” said Warren resident Mel Bynum to reporters, who organized the event alongside Dyshell Palmer. “We were here a year ago to put up a Black Lives Matter flag [outside the Warren Town Hall], the community has been working on diversity, equity and inclusion, and when the flag came down, the white supremacists took it as an invitation to come into our communities and try to infiltrate them. So we’re here to say that we’re united as a community to protect our community from hatred.”
The stickers that went up were quickly removed and covered with stickers featuring Rhode Island’s Hope Anchor (modified with hearts) and the words “Hate Has No Home Here.” Taylor Faria of Warren and Julie Souza of Barrington distributed the anti-hate stickers, which were financed in part by community donations. The stickers were designed by Lindsey Hongorany.
“This community is only as strong as the people who live here and support it so if you want change you need to be the change,” said Bynum.
“Now is not the time for complacency, fear, or denial<‘ said Mel Bynum when she addressed rally attendees. “Hate in this country is as epidemic as COVID-19.There is no cure for racism – no vaccine – because such hatred, though born of ignorance, is taught. No one is born racist.
“Love thy neighbor. Seek truth in facts, not stereotypes or agenda-inspired lies. Education frees the mind, soul, and body. Those who choose to look the other way while white supremacists seek to infiltrate our communities do a disservice to our families who live here. You don’t find KKK stickers at the corner store. In 2021 racist messaging is financed and organized. It is not “kids being kids.”
“We ask for swift justice for these acts of hate vandalism. We ask for the community to keep their eyes, and ears open. See something, say something. Act. Vote. Run for open office seats. Change is at the door, but you need to not block it. Be the change. Be the light. United we stand.
“’Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.’ ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ – Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.”
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“What we hope is to heal our circle,” said Warren town resident Joyce Katzberg in an emotional, passionate speech. “There are people outside of the circle because of the color of their skin, or because of their gender, or their perceived gender. There are people outside of the circles because of their economic class, or because of their physical abilities. There are so many ways that we create circles, circles that we exclude one another from…”
Ashley spoke about the trouble she had when her biracial daughter had a man drive by and shout racial slurs at her. “The police were no help,” said Ashley. “We were told that it was freedom of speech and he can drive by and say whatever he wants…”
“We want to fix this problem now,” said Brother Gary Dantzler, from Black Lives Matter RI. “We’ve got to understand racism, as a community.” Brother Gary promised to support anti-racist efforts in Warren.
“The white supremacy that is the Achilles heel of this country, is the soft underbelly of America that will destroy it ultimately, if we don’t get it under control,” said Mark Fisher of Black Lives Matter RI.
“Unfortunately, it’s not surprising,” said Bernice Morris of Black Lives Matter RI about the hateful stickers plastered in the town. “That’s why we’re here, to stand with you.”
“My feeling about equality is that we need to stop asking for it, because we were born with it,” said Christopher Bynum, a retired US Air Force Master Sergeant.
Trinki Anderson invited everyone to the monthly Black Lives Matter vigils held in Barrington. This month’s vigil is on Sunday, April 25th in front of Barrington Presbyterian Church at 1pm.
“My family has been a part of this town for a very long time,” said Warren resident Gary Cabellon, who has experienced anti-Asian discrimination during the pandemic due to his Filipino ancestry. “I never thought that in this town, that this would happen here.”
Mark Fisher, Black Lives Matter RI:
“I’ve bee asked a lot since these recent symbols of hatred, bigotry and white supremacy popped up in our community, Was I surprised? Not particularly. I know that racism is here.,” said Warren Town Council President Keri Cronin. “I like to believe it has no home here. It’s not welcome here. But it is here.”
Also attending the protest were other members of the Warren Town Council as well as Rhode Island State Representatives June Speakman (Democrat, District 68, Bristol, Warren) and Jason Knight (Democrat, District 67, Barrington, Warren).
“It’s true what they say – Silence is complicity,” said Paige. “I now stand here as the parent on a non-binary child. They are 11 and a half years old and I have to worry every single day, every single hour, every single minute that somebody is going to say something hateful or worse to my non-binary child. My child who is happy and proud to be out, happy to be in the LGBTQ community.”
Lilia said that racism is in part a product of the fiction of scarcity:
Taylor Faria and Julie Souza talk about the stickers they produced to cover the hatestickers in town.
Mel Bynum closed out the protest: