Updated: May 19, 2022
The Nonviolence Institute hosted a press conference on Monday addressing the horrific attack on Black Americans in Buffalo with messages of urgency regarding gun violence, extremism, and the spread of hate through social media. A call to all Rhode Islanders to come together to fight this threat for our state and for our nation was a continuous theme. Father Ray Malm, co-founder of the Institute, opened the event with a prayer for peace for "a peaceful world, a peaceful neighborhood, and peace within ourselves," which can be attained through the study and practice of nonviolence - the driving force behind the Institute.
Cedric Huntley, Executive Director at the Institute, said “I want Rhode Island to ring the bell ... and say not here in Rhode Island." Referencing “If you see something, say something,” a Department of Homeland Security campaign, he said "We can prevent things … incidents like this from happening if we pay attention and follow up." This program, administered in Rhode Island by The Fusion Center, is designed to teach citizens how to identify the behaviors that mass shooters often display prior to their acts of violence, and how to alert the proper authorities.
Cedric was joined by Governor Dan McKee, Attorney General Peter Neronha, Mayor Jorge Elorza, Deputy Attorney General Adi Goldstein, Col. Darnell Weaver of the RI State Police, Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare, leadership from Providence Police and Fire Departments, community partners, and NVI Board Members in calling for a complete rejection of the outlandish ideology that inspired the shooter in Buffalo.
Mayor Elorza spoke about the dangerous intersection between extremism, social media, and easy access to guns. “People’s minds are being infected, there’s a virus … in this case it’s a replacement theory. But there are so many grotesque, hateful, and angry ideologies which are being shared online,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “There is no reason why anyone should have such ready access to these kinds of guns. These are weapons of war that belong, if anything, on a battlefield. The fact that they are accessible in our communities is absolutely unacceptable.” He went on to thank the Nonviolence Institute for being a strong partner, "Not only are they stepping in and interrupting cycles of violence but what they are also doing is proactively providing nonviolence training to the broader community.”
One of the most powerful speakers was Jim Vincent, Executive Director of the NAACP Providence, who called out the nonsensical ideology behind the Buffalo shooter’s attack, “This is certainly a stain on our nation’s history, a stain on all of us. I am angry, I am frustrated, and I am sad. I am sad that ten black individuals, mostly matriarchs and patriarchs of their family, could not go to a supermarket to shop for groceries in the United States of America. I am angry that we have this insane policy called replacement theory that seeks to scapegoat everybody of color, and Jewish people, because of some kind of fragility and anxiety that’s a figment of somebody or some group’s imagination.”
Diana Garlington, Board Member of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV), read some of the Coalition press release on the events in Buffalo, then expressed personal sentiments, “We are tired of hearing that our thoughts and prayers are with you. As an advocate in this community and as a mother who lost a child to gun violence, I’m tired. I no longer want to hear how thoughts and prayers are with us. I want you to take action and stand up as a community, stand up as a person, stand up as an individual and understand that Buffalo is right around the corner.”
Steven Pare, Commissioner of Public Safety, City of Providence, spoke of extending the partnership in Providence to a statewide effort to combat white supremacist ideology. “There’s a need to speak out and reach out to our community here and throughout the state so we can allay some of their fears that we’re doing everything possible to prevent this kind of brutal attack on people just because of the color of their skin,” said Commission Pare.
Standing in solidarity with all victims of hateful and extreme rhetoric and violence, Wendy Joering, Executive Director of the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center, said “Nobody should be scared to walk into a supermarket, a community center, a house of worship, and be anywhere and be scared of being shot or physically assaulted because of their race, ethnic background, or religion, or any other minority. It’s unacceptable. I want to thank our law enforcement partners that work every single day to keep us safe and I think we should all follow Cedric’s lead with acts of kindness and doing things for other people so things like this never happen again.”
Channavy Chhay, Executive Director, Center for Southeast Asians, Rhode Island, spoke of her personal experience as a survivor of genocide, and the notion of the United States as a peaceful land. She reiterated the need to be on the lookout for signs of distress in the people we know, "There are in our families, individuals that need help. Whether it is mental health, whether it is substance, whatever circumstances are, you have to say that is a problem. We must address internally so that externally we can live in harmony together.”
Long-time community advocate Boo Hackney, Board Member at the Nonviolence Institute, reflected on his family and the heightened threat they face, “I’m tired of looking at them every day and wondering if they will have a chance to get older. I know my mom is tired of wondering if my brother and I will have our number called savagely.”
Morris Akinfolarin, Executive Board Member at Oasis International, echoed the need for communities to come together to face this crisis head on, “It’s not just about white, black, and different, we need to walk together, all of us. We have plenty of work to do to change the course of this crisis.”
Newly appointed Director of the Rhode Island State Police, Col. Darnell Weaver, was on hand to reiterate the support and backing for the partnership with the Nonviolence Institute; RI State Trooper Kenneth Jones was also in attendance, as well as:
The Nonviolence Team
NVI Board Members Arthur Johnson and Dean Esserman
Olyainka Oredugba and Dr. Silas Pinto of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Department, City of Providence
Jen Boylan and volunteers from Moms Demand Action RI
Toby Ayers of Rhode Island for Community and Justice
Na'sha Bailey and youth from the John Rollins Recreation Center
Rodney Davis of Rhode Island Pride
Tuesday, May 31st - 3:15 to 4:30 - RSVP Now