Rhode Island and Providence Plantations has the distinction of being the smallest state with the longest state name. We have been a contradiction in terms from our beginning. Our founder, Roger Williams (of whom I am direct descendent – with millions of others) was about to be banished from Massachusetts for his radical ideas when he ran away into the night. He ended up befriending the Native American Pequot and Narragansett tribes and they in turn gave him land at the top of Narragansett Bay. He named the land Providence and declared it to be a place of religious freedom. Little Rhody collected so many dissenters and independents that others took to calling us Rogue’s Island. We were the first of the original 13 colonies to renounce allegiance to England on May 4, 1776 but the last to ratify the Constitution – waiting until it was tweaked to our liking with the Bill of Rights. We struck one of the first blows in the the lead up to the American Revolution when we burned the HMS Gaspee, a British customs schooner, in 1772.
Despite being heavily Irish and Italian Roman Catholic, we come consistently come out at or near the top of the most liberal and most tolerant states in the country. We also top out as the state with the most suicides, drunk driving and drug use per capita. We still love our rogues. If Buddy Cianci ran for Mayor of Providence again I am quite convinced that he would win. Within our 48 mile height and 37 mile width we have the best beaches in New England but have a short time to enjoy summer. Within an hour you can be almost anywhere in the state. You can travel from the triple deckers in the city to the Mansions (summer cottages) of the Industrial Age robber barons in 30 minutes. We are a quirky little state that gets into your blood. People who leave here most often come back. People who have spent time here in college or during work assignments find a way to come back.
That brings me to Occupy Providence. It is boring. They have not been raided or pepper sprayed or hassled. They took over Burnside Park with a march of 1500 people. (General Ambrose Burnside – father of the sideburns). They have approximately 60 overnight sleepers with others rotating during the day. The state politicians have taken the walk down from the State House on Smith Hill to talk to them. The Providence city council has sponsored a resolution in support of them. There is no police presence but police will help when called. The mayor is going through the courts to get them evicted but their pro bono legal counsel has managed to get that delayed time and again. On Saturday they held a march in conjuction with homeless and foreclosure activists with a police escort to the State House. Ten tents were allowed to stay overnight on the State House lawn through negotiations with Governor Lincoln Chafee, a judge and the legal counsel. But they are making a difference. They are educating people who come through to find out what it is all about. They are situated between City Hall and US District Court and well within sight of the financial district. They were able to negotiate moving for one day so the city could winterize the underground sprinklers in the park. Once they were allowed back in the occupiers took up the task of raking leaves and reseeding the grass that had been killed off under the tents. They won’t make the “if it bleeds, it leads” national news but they are out there and have the backing of churches, homeless advocates, foreclosure activists and the community at large.
I delivered a supply of winter gear, courtesy of FDL, to them on Sunday. They were very appreciative and thankful that the gear was union made and made in the USA. They do need more though and I have spread the FDL donate to Occupy Supply link on their Facebook page as well as mine. If you would like to follow them online they have a website as well: occupyprovidence.org