NORTH KINGSTOWN–An event sponsored by T.A.N.K, Towards an Anti-Racist Kingstown, planned for May 23 at McGinn Park, which founder Jennifer Lima said will be a family; art/vigil was met with opposition by Republican town council members at the council’s May 10 meeting.
Dividing along party lines, GOP members Mary Brimer and Kerry McKay voted against the proposed event, which will be held May 23 at McGinn Park.
Brimer, saying while she appreciates TANK, she does not believe elected public officials should be permitted to use public property for events that might be deemed political in nature.
Lima, TANK’s founder is a member of the North Kingstown School Committee.
“Using this property is not a good idea,” Brimer said. “Some will see this as a political event. And it will create a potential problem.”
Lima countered saying the day is going to be a “family friendly event,” with an artist, and a number of speakers.
“I see this as a political event,” Brimer said.
TANK was formed last year and at that time Lima said the groups’ goals included a hope that it would be able to help North Kingstown deal with diversity and equality issues and foster an environment, a climate that would make the town welcoming to all people and their unique abilities and character while working for anti-racist policies through education in the schools and community, and at the same time advocating for racial and equality reform.
Lima explained that the main mission of the organization is to help move North Kingstown forward when it comes to honoring diversity and equality.
North Kingstown, and its school system are predominately white.
“There has not been a single case of racism reported to the school or police,” Brimer added.
North Kingstown Arts Council member Nancy Sherman said “that’s just not so.”
She said during an event last year there were leaflets left in the port-o-potties that included racial slurs.
“I’d like to respectfully ask that you take this elsewhere,” Brimer told Lima, who declined to move the event.
Brimer has suggested holding the event at a private property location or at the Beechwood Community Center.
Fellow GOP council member Kerry McKay supported Brimer calling the event a “political one. It’s a very left leaning agenda.”
“This is not okay, and should be held elsewhere,” Brimer added.
“But political ideology should not be a part of the council’s decision,” said member Katie Anderson.
Council chair Greg Mancini took a different angle on the request suggesting that if the council was to deny the request it might open itself to a First Amendment liability issue.
Noting that this a divisive issue, Mancini said approving the event “appears to be the right thing to do.”
By a 3-2 margin the council approved the event.