Never let it be said that Joe Trillo can’t mobilize people into political action. The former Republican state legislator who is waging a quixotic independent bid for governor by following Donald Trump’s campaign strategy of hate and division clearly energized Democrats when he weighed in on racism late last week.
“I am so sick of hearing people scream the word racism every time a minority gets arrested for something unlawful,” Trillo said in a statement responding to two Black men being erroneously arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks. No charges were filed and the Philadelphia Police Department as well as the Starbucks have apologized and admitted error, but Trillo said in his statement, “It’s not racism, it’s what happens when you break the law.”
It’s unclear to this reporter how Trillo’s statement resonated with the alt. right in Rhode Island, but the backlash from the progressive left could be easily found on social media this weekend.
“Joe Trillo does not, in any way represent the Rhode Island core values, and the thought of him becoming governor is scary, and it should be particularly frightening to black and brown people,” wrote Providence Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell on Facebook Saturday morning. “I respectfully call on all candidates running for any office in Rhode Island to denounce and repudiate Trillo’s racist remarks.”
Her call was quickly heeded by numerous elected officials, activists, and other leftist leaders.
“Gasping for oxygen as his campaign is going nowhere,” commented Rep. Teresa Tanzi on the Facebook post. ” Senator Jeanine Calkin commented, “His comments are truly awful but he will never be Governor. I’m sure he is doing it to grasp any possible publicity.”
Commenters of color had harsher words for Trillo’s statement. “What a privileged piece of shit!” wrote Leah Williams Metts. “The man is so out of touch with reality,” wrote Michael Van Leesten.
Newport/Jamestown Senator Dawn Euer tweeted about Trillo’s statement, saying, “Twisting facts, using divisive and offensive rhetoric, pushing a fear based narrative to promote personal political aspirations. We’ve seen this playbook before and RIers rejected it. Most importantly, in 2018 it shouldn’t be a partisan value to stand opposed to racism.”
Melanie DuPont, who is running for in a Democratic primary for the District 22 state Senate seat against incumbent Steve Archambault, issued a statement on her campaign’s Facebook page.
“I reject and denounce Joseph A. Trillo,” said the post. “Racists are not fit to govern. Not in Rhode Island, not anywhere on Earth.”
Justine Caldwell, who is campaigning for a House seat held by Republican Anthony Giarrusso, issued a press release about Trillo’s press release. “Joe Trillo’s dangerous remarks have no place in the public conversation in the Rhode Island I know,” she said. “Trillo may be ‘sick’ of what he calls people ‘[screaming] the word racism.’ What makes me sick is that in a state like Rhode Island, and a town like East Greenwich, residents have to endure fear of these kinds of racially-charged incidents, day after day, year after year. We all need to do our part in stopping them.”