PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — An annual holiday tradition at the Rhode Island State House was interrupted Wednesday night when several protesters entered the rotunda and began shouting at Gov. Dan McKee.
The protesters made their presence known soon after McKee walked into the rotunda to kick off the Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
The protesters were heard shouting “keep your promise” and other chants throughout a number of holiday performances.
The governor left the rotunda and didn’t return until the countdown to the tree lighting, during which protesters once again started chanting.
(Story continues below video.)
The protesters appeared to be calling upon McKee to address the state’s housing crisis and provide adequate shelter for homeless Rhode Islanders.
Several protesters were seen carrying signs that read “where will we sleep tonight?” and “emergency shelter is needed right now.”
The demonstration comes the same day the governor revealed that the state would soon be opening a 24-hour warming station inside the Cranston Street Armory.
“This is an important issue that’s impacting hundreds of people,” McKee said. “We have an obligation to respond and do it responsibly.”
Prior to the tree-lighting ceremony, the governor invited all Rhode Islanders to attend and enjoy the festivities.
“This is a community event,” he said. “We want everyone to know they’re welcome here … delivering that message is what Rhode Island is all about.”
The crowd of protesters peacefully dispersed soon after the tree was lit.
The ceremony was held inside the rotunda for the first time since the start of the pandemic.