One People's Project
PROVIDENCE, RI--A few months ago, Rhode Island State Representative Peter Palumbo tried to capitalize on the controversy surrounding Arizona's SB1070 law by creating for Rhode Island Bill HB 8142, a bill that mirrored Arizona's plan to criminalize failure to carry immigration papers, and to give police broad powers to detain and deport undocumented immigrants. However, while SB1070 managed to find its way to Gov. Jan Brewer's desk to be signed into law only to have the life taken out of it by a federal court, HB 8142 didn't even get past his fellow legislators, who in May killed it in committee. On January, he plans to reintroduce the bill and a rally for it sponsored by the Minuteman Project and Rhode Islanders For Immigration Law Enforcement (RIILE) was held inside the Statehouse with Minutemen co-founder Jim Gilchrist among its speakers. The end result however, was a spectacle where of the small crowd that came out in the dreary weather to participate, most were dressed as clowns opposing him, and one supporter from a controversial student organization that praised a white supremacist in his remarks.
Approximately fifty persons came out to the rally inside the Statehouse Rotunda that started around 8:00 AM and ended four hours later with less than twenty still listening to speeches by political candidates and members of the group RIILE. RIILE leader Terry Gorman was reported as saying he expected over 500 persons to attend the rally, but weather reports of rain might have kept others from coming out. Of those fifty 24 were university students in clown suits, overwhelming the crowd and mocking them, especially Palumbo with signs reading "Rep. Palumbo, Clown in Chief" and chants like "When I say ‘Clown!’ You say ‘Power!’ ". Palumbo and Gilchrist spoke early, and after they and a few other speakers spoke, the clowns danced out of the statehouse and held a celebration outside before dispersing.
As the Capitol is a public place open to all citizens, the counterdemonstrators were able to mix with those attending the rally while state police simply made certain things didn't get out of hand. "Theres more of you anyway," Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman was overheard telling the clown activists as they came in. "Its a little lackluster in there!"
The rally continued for at least three more hours, with other state legislators coming to the podium in support of the bill. Many of the speakers, as Gilchrist did earlier in his remarks, decried being called racists and hatemongers, but despite the denials there were speakers who still gave creedence to the often-levied charge. Tim Dionisopoulos, the Providence College Republican leader who spoke as that school's representative for the Euro-Nationalist group Youth for Western Civilization, was immediately greeted with boos and catcalls from antifa that were still in attendence, while Tim attempted to laugh the situation off and continue on with a rant against the movie Machete and a diatribe against a so-called "Reconquista", a conspiracy theory that originated with the more racist anti-immigrant groups that says Mexicans are coming across the border in an effort to retake the Southwest from the United States.
Dionisopoulos, who was responsible for setting up RIILE's Facebook page, also said efforts by activists who are not otherwise connected to immigrants are all part of a grander plan of authoriantarianism. "People who want to enact tyranny and anarchy within our streets is (part of ) a concept that Sam Francis talked about..." he said before being interrupted and drowned out by not only more catcalls, but loud applause from those trying to drown out the catcalls. Dr. Samuel Francis, who died in 2005, was a writer and member of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. He is credited on that group's website as the person responsible for writing its Statement of Principles among which he noted, "We believe the United States is a European country and that Americans are part of the European people," and "We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races." He was famously fired from the right-wing Washington Times after it was reported at while speaking at the 1994 conference sponsored by the white supremacist American Renaissance newsletter, he declared whites must "reassert our identity and our solidarity, and we must do so in explicitly racial terms through the articulation of a racial consciousness as whites."
State Rep. Joseph A. Trillo, who is a co-Sponsor of the bill, also took issue with the racial and cultural makeup of today's immigrants in his remarks, suggesting that it is hurting America's status as a melting pot. "Anytime you throw too much of anything in our pot; it’s no longer a melting pot," he said. "It’s become contaminated by a particular population and that is altering the makeup of the United States."
According to the Providence Journal, Terry Gorman called the turnout "extremely disappointing," and was particulary upset about the activists dressed as clowns. "They have their side of the issue [and] they tried to put it in our face today," he said. "I think that’s unfortunate."