‘We have to live here’: RI Senate candidate calls for peace after night of violence

West Bay

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The looting and violence in Providence early Tuesday morning was disheartening to many, but it was especially upsetting to Rhode Island Senate candidate Jennifer Rourke.

Rourke, an African-American woman challenging Senate Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey this November, was the target of dozens of racially-charged comments during a virtual town hall last week.

The violence stems from the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who was pinned down by an officer who kneeled on his neck, despite the fact he was pleading that he couldn’t breathe.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Rourke said of the violence that took place in Providence. “People were angry and they came – they showed their anger.”

Rourke understands their frustration, but said violence is not the answer.

“Destruction of property, we’ve done it, we’re still doing it,” Rourke said. “We need to come up with a different plan. They hear us, now is the time to speak and talk about it.”

Members of the Rhode Island National Guard set a perimeter around both the Warwick Mall and Garden City Center for a potentially violent protest Tuesday evening after reports of “planned violence” surfaced on social media.

Rourke, who lives in Warwick, said she hopes her community won’t become the next target.

“People in the communities that are suffering and just like George Floyd’s family said, we have to live here,” she said. “If you are from out of state and you want to destroy your own town, you stay there, but don’t come here and destroy our town.”

Rourke said the answer to real change is by voting in November and not by destroying property.

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