“Stop your lying, lyin’ Ryan!” chanted hundreds of protesters as they greeted the U. S. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, R-Wis, during his visit Thursday to the Ocean State. Ryan’s visit, which centered on a meeting with Year Up — an organization committed to training low-income young adults — focused on how Congress and cities like Providence can empower young adults to succeed in professional careers and higher education, according to a statement released to NBC 10.
In response to Ryan’s visit, State Rep. Aaron Regunberg ’12, D-Providence, organized a protest outside of Ryan’s meeting with Year Up. “The focus of this event is for folks to send a clear message to Paul Ryan that (President Trump’s) agenda is not welcomed here in Rhode Island,” Regunberg said. “He’s going to face resistance wherever he goes.”
Because police reportedly expected a large turnout ahead of time, officers cordoned off the sidewalk around 40 Fountain St. to keep protesters at a distance. Ryan avoided the crowds and proceeded to enter the building through the back entry. “Coward!” protesters yelled in response.
Many protesters raised concerns over the Affordable Care Act, immigration reform and Ryan’s reluctance to meet with local constituents in his district, even as several other Republicans have rallied to do so in their own districts.
“He’s refused to hold any town hall meetings in his district in Wisconsin,” Regunberg said. “No matter where he goes or where he runs or hides — the resistance to this agenda is going to follow him.”
Marina Dimitrijevic, executive director of the Wisconsin Working Families Party, voiced her support for the Rhode Island protest to The Herald from her home state. “We’ve asked him in Jamesville to have a town hall meeting and nothing is ever scheduled,” Dimitrijevic said. “He’s working on his health care plans to change Medicare, Medicaid and affordable health care, and he refuses to speak directly to his constituents.”
Dimitrijevic added that over 80,000 postcards were sent to Ryan’s district office, and that his staff did not accept them. “He’s leaving Wisconsin — he can’t escape us, and we’re just getting started,” Dimitrijevic said.
Regunberg took the House Speaker’s actions as direct threats to Rhode Island principles. “The values that Rhode Island was founded on — religious tolerance, democracy and justice — those are values that face bigger threats from the Trump/Ryan agenda,” Regunberg said. “It’s important that people get involved.”
Though hundreds chanted and marched in defiance of Ryan’s visit, not all Rhode Islanders were supportive of the protest. Austin Rose ’19, treasurer of Brown’s College Republicans, said the protest was ineffective due to the fundamental differences between views held by Ryan and those by President Trump on topics ranging from tax policy to health care reform.
“Anybody who went out (to the protest) with the intention of getting back at Republicans does a lot of damage,” Rose said.
“To say ‘Because Trump is elected, now there’s no one left with a rational policy voice on the conservative side’ paints everyone with a bad brush, limits bipartisanship and limits the potential to have middle ground,” he added.