This week has been tumultuous to say the least. The chaos and confusion stemming from Tuesday’s Presidential Election results have caused a significant amount of unrest across the country. Last night, protests erupted into violent acts of mayhem throughout a number of cities across the United States seemingly leaving us less united than ever anticipated.
As evidenced by my last editorial, I find it important to keep up with the news (especially the local news) to keep educated on what’s happening in the world around me. At times, it is difficult to do, considering a majority of what we see and read about is centered around violence and tragedy. It’s almost impossible to turn on the a local news program and not here about a murder in Providence or other local town. Violence is a theme that dominates mainstream media and one that has shown no signs of stopping.
While enjoying a cocktail at a local watering hole downtown after a nice restaurant week meal at White Horse Tavern with two dear friends of mine, I watched two males get jumped by a group of 20 men. The incident had no correlation to the election results but was rather instigated by choice words being exchanged between a member of the larger party and the two males. Before you knew it, there was a melee outside of the bar and the two guys in question were laying lifeless on the cobblestone. Each male was attacked by upwards of 6 people and after they were on the ground, multiple men from the large group stomped the kids’ heads into the ground after they had already been knocked out. For a brief moment, I honestly thought one of the kids was dead.
Right around this time last year, there were multiple incidents of violence that occurred throughout the city. Unfortunately, many of these go undocumented and people don’t understand that these kind of things can happen anywhere, even here in Newport. Ryan Belmore, our owner and editor of WhatsUpNewp, was assaulted with a skateboard to the back of his head last Fall. Two other friends of mine were also senselessly assaulted while walking home from the bars last year. A young lady I know who spoke on condition of anonymity was robbed outside of her downtown apartment almost a year ago as well. Many more of these same incidents have occurred and many without people knowing.
A few weeks ago, I watched the entire Newport Police Department and officers from the Middletown Police Department respond to a huge fight at The Pier on Howard’s Wharf. While walking a colleague home from work, we witnessed a group to 40+ people fighting outside the restaurant, which ended in a stabbing and multiple arrests.
I lived on Ann Street last Fall and granted, its inevitable that you’ll witness two drunk kids fighting over a slice of roni’ or how someone looked at their lady every once in a while. However, I watched as that same group of people who assaulted the two boys on Tuesday basically raided my next door neighbor’s house, breaking windows and leaving them fearful for their well-being because they were kicked out of a party.
Now, police and rescue were called to both of the scenes and witnesses shared their observations to both. However, for a group of grown men to continually get away with this behavior is beyond me. I lost sleep on Tuesday night thinking about what I had witnessed. Fighting doesn’t make you tough, you’re not a thug. Jumping people doesn’t make you a man. I watched a woman who works at a local restaurant on Thames and associates with that crowd stand over the body of one of the kids and mock them because they got knocked out. How disgusting is that? If you’re reading this column and were involved on Tuesday, you know exactly who you are and you’re the type of people that Newport could do without.
If anything, the actions committed on Tuesday night show how many cowards live in this town and surround themselves with each other. The fact that there are people in Newport who make it unsafe to visit shows how much pride they have in their community. To treat peers in a way that shows you have no regard for others who live amongst us is shameful.
Small initiatives such as the ‘Newport Waves’ campaign and increased lighting downtown have served to curb nighttime violence in the city but more is needed. At the end of the day, you’re not as safe as you think you are. I live off Broadway now and even I get weary at times while I’m walking my dog after a long night at work. I was robbed and jumped while in college and as a result, I’m always hesitant and alert of my surroundings. The last thing I want to happen in this community that I love so much is for people to be fearful walking home from work or the bars. It’s time to discuss accountability and how we can make a change to put this violence to rest.
Think before you act. Next time someone is calling you out at a bar or escalating an issue, simply walk away. Be the bigger person and don’t give into their anger and violence. Keep this is mind, the last thing any grown man or woman needs on their resume is an assault charge. When passions run high, keep an even keel.
I have an opportunity that not many people have, an ability to share my voice and thoughts to a community of readers who live and work locally. I hope that this article, while it is not going to solve the greater problem, will help others not shy away from protecting their peers from unnecessary violence. Criminals who continue to incite violence need to be stripped of this sense of entitlement they carry and need to be held accountable for their actions.
It is our civic duty to help one another, to teach peace rather than hate and to unify ourselves as a community. We cannot tolerate local violence any longer. Now more than ever it is essential that we unite together towards common goals and make this City a safer place to live for our families and ourselves.
Tyler is a local hospitality professional, bartending at Midtown Oyster Bar Wednesday through Sunday nights on the Burgee Bar and at Caleb&Broad on Monday nights for their award winning $10 entree dinner special.
Tyler is a graduate of Providence College and a true Rhode Islander, born and bred.
Email him at TylerBernadyn@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram at @tylerbernadyn