As is too often the case, the state government of Rhode Island has leapt with both feet into the next new normal in heavy-handed government. In a photograph accompanying this Providence Journal article, we see a line of state police vehicles blocking the path of… nobody. They are parked on the most common spot for Rhode Islanders to gather and express their political opinions in accordance with their civil rights, where every Tuesday morning people gather for non-denominational prayer. At least they did so not long ago.
On WPRI, State Police Colonel James Manni calls the heavy presence of armed officers “a deterrent,” explaining that “January 6 was a game-changer for the entire country.” Presumably the game-changer was that, now, the rioters won’t reliably be the left-wing activists favored by Rhode Island’s ruling party.
Shamefully, journalists across the state are reporting this from the authoritarians’ point of view. On WJAR, which notes the “military vehicles circl[ing] around Smith Hill like clockwork”:
“When you hear and see threats of this nature, you have to take some kind of action as if it will happen here,” said John Enright, a former U.S. Secret Service agent.
And yet in the very next paragraph:
Police have said there are no credible threats of violent protests at this time.
There are no threats, certainly none as defined and likely as hovered over the entire country for much of 2020. This is a deterrent against actions that are not imminent, or even really suspected as likely. In the past, left-wing activists have freely organized plans to violently prevent free-speech demonstrators from expressing their views in the space that the state troopers have currently staked out, and those “counter-protesters” were allowed to do follow through on their threats.
All of this suggests that the Rhode Island National Guard and State Police are complicit in a partisan attempt to suppress free speech from a particular point of view, and neither our politicians nor the news media nor the self-proclaimed civil rights advocates care one bit.