Thousands Rally To Support War Memorial

Throngs crowd Place Jolicoeur to oppose demand to remove cross from monument.

Thousands gathered outside Woonsocket Fire Department Headquarters to show support for keeping the Place Jolicoeur Memorial in place and intact.

The rally was organized by Retired RI Adjutant General Reginald Centracchio after a challenge demanding removal of religious symbols from the Place Jolicoeur memorial and Fire Department website.

People stood around the memorial itself, filling the parking lot of the fire station. Some even took a birds-eye seat across the street on a high berm running parallel to Cumberland Hill Road.

WPRO's John DePetro was the master of ceremonies for the event that showcased speeches from several dignataries, including Mayor Leo Fontaine, Centracchio and Sami Wellington, 13, of Cumberland, a seventh-grader at Mount St. Charles Academy who spoke for keeping the memorial intact.

One speaker, Mickey Vadneis, national executive for the American Legion in RI, told the crowd that the National American Legion had vowed to restore the memorial and that the Alliance Defense League had offered to pay to help the city fight against the demands leveled by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) last week.

Stay tuned for more information, photos and videos from the event.

pitbull tickler May 03, 2012 at 05:47 AM
I wanted to hear the bishop say "I apologize for sending black-robed diddlers into your community." That would have been more appropriate.
la_mouffette May 03, 2012 at 05:54 AM
The organizers did not present *all* of the rally the way I would have done it, Jim. But there was a lot that was useful and good about the Rally, though! I'd have focused almost totally on presenting the real case, and then introduced the crowd to the stories of the four men the monument honours, asked veterans to speak, had some patriotic music... and they DID! Several speakers made statements regarding mutual tolerance for all that got heavily applauded, which made me very happy. But I'd have emphasized the legal side of it more. But NO, religious leaders supporting this monument doesn't really give the FFRF any new legal fodder. It could muddy the conversation, but it doesn't change the solid, legal facts that could be argued in a court. The promoters said they wanted to present the wide variety of support for the monument. The basis of the monument's right to exist can't be affected by the speech made by a citizen who happens to be Bishop Tobin, any more than it was by the kind and supportive speech made by the head of the Jewish War Veterans' of America. Or, the supportive statements made by atheists! But de Pitro of WPRO is certainly not my kind of thinker. As a professional news talk host, he kind of has an incentive in trying to make things dramatic and divisive, even if he has to drag in unrelated hot button topics. Fortunately, the crowd largely kept him in line.
la_mouffette May 03, 2012 at 06:46 AM
Three words: Arlington National Cemetery This is a first amendment issue, but not in the way you might expect, because the monument is one man's surrogate grave marker.
Dawn May 03, 2012 at 09:39 AM
Not only was the Bishop there, but so was a Rabbi and quite a few Jewish people; met so many people from all over the state who agree on the following: What do they want next?? All crosses removed from all of the Veteran's Cemeteries in America and overseas? All Veteran's monuments in almost every town in America be destroyed? Should we be reprinting all the US currency and change all of our patriotic American songs to remove "GOD"? These things have been in existence for hundreds of years and now everyone is offended? Grow up people and find something better to do with your time unless you want to hand over the money to make all these changes. There are bigger problems in the world right now, like war, disease, hunger and homeless people. If more people focused on loving one another and being positive instead of focusing on the negative, this earth would be a better place to live.
Tommy Tutone May 03, 2012 at 11:16 AM
Please God,save us from religion.
Seymour May 03, 2012 at 11:23 AM
It's good to see the community galvanized but it's also sad that this is the type of event that caused it. With everything going on, a memorial which has stood for decades and until recently most citizens never knew about is what spurred a fight that rallied a city. It really is sad. By next week the misinformed and misguided lemmings can all return to whatever is was you were doing while the real crisis is occuring.
Doctor May 03, 2012 at 11:49 AM
FFRF, you have picked the wrong area of this great nation to start a war with. We are patriots, we are fighters and we love our freedom. You have lost the battle, now surrender and end the war before it is too late.
Jim May 03, 2012 at 12:24 PM
It's wonderful that people of other faiths were there but were they allowed to speak? Just having the Bishop gives the appearance of the promotion of one type of religion. Again, could he attend? Absolutely, but just as a supporter and observer nothing more.
Jim May 03, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Memere, please read the other comments I posted. What many people do not realize is that as Bishop he actually does not have the right to speak on public issues if he wants to keep his religious organization tax exempt. To speak he would have to remove his Roman collar and speak as a lay person. But having seen this Bishop in action he would never remove himself from his throne for even a moment to be on the same level as everyone else.
David Bouchard May 03, 2012 at 12:30 PM
I agree with Jim, if this issue is about a war monument that happens to have a cross on it rather than a religious display then the bishop should not have been there in his "official' capacity - why couldn’t he show his support just by attending and keeping his mouth shut. Also, this was hosted by Depetro? Gimme a break, that man is nothing more than a rabble rouser; if there’s an event where he can stir up extreme right-wing or Catholic issues then he’s in there with both feet. My feelings are that religious symbols in general should be kept off public property; I understand that this memorial, unlike the Cranston prayer banner, deserves to be treated differently. I wonder if our administration attempted to respond to the letter received from the FFRF to present the facts and circumstances of this memorial and refute the notion of promoting a religion, or did they just decide to create this circus to divert our attention from other issues.
Jim May 03, 2012 at 12:31 PM
la_mouffette, please understand. If the Bishop had to speak he should have spoken as Thomas Tobin NOT as Bishop. You even say yourself that it could muddy the waters and that is the last thing you want. Remember reasonable doubt? In the court system the term reasonable doubt exists because of muddy waters. Any reasonable doubt and the courts or jury would have no choice but to order the removal of the cross.
Jay Keith May 03, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Ya know what was so great about yesterday? One of the speakers hit the nail on the head. Jolecuer and the Gagne family were Christians. Had the memorial been created for a Jew, it would have had the star of David. Had they been Muslim, it would have been a cressent, had they been Atheist, it probably would have had nothing on it. Therefore, the argument could be made that the FFRF is actually trying to abridge/prevent the religious expression of another American. We all know that the 1st Amendment protects that. Case closed!!!!
Jay Keith May 03, 2012 at 02:00 PM
But man, what a rally. Hearing the vets speak and looking around at their brothers and sisters holding American flags and sporting their branch's pins and colors I got weepy several times during the rally. Hearing that woman Jen from the military who was an airplane mechanic in Dessert Storm really got me tearin up. You may be able to mess with Christians, but for the love of God, you will NEVER silence the vets and I pray for anyone that trys to!!!! It feels great to actually be proud of Woonsocket, our heritage and the sacrifices that were made on our behalf. Thanks to all that came out yesterday! The line in the sand has been drawn!
CB11 May 03, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Representatives from the Protestant and Jewish faiths also spoke in support of the monument. The monument does have religious overtones in the fact that the men it is dedicated to were Christians - had they been Jewish, there would have been a Star Of David or Muslim, would have had the Star and Crescent, etc
Jay Keith May 03, 2012 at 02:16 PM
And once again, "Separation of Church and State" is a phrase, not a law, and definitely does not refer to scrubbing all religious expression from the public square. It was a line in a note from Thomas Jeffererson to the Danbury Baptists that were afraid the State of CT was going to force them into a State Approved Religion of the state's choice. The true intention (if you read historical writings and the constitution itself) lof that ittle phrase "Separation of Church & State" is soley to prevent the STATE from MAKING A LAW telling AMericans they had to follow a SINGLE, STATE APPROVED religion. Such as they did in England with the Church of England. The vets and the folks at that rally have a firm understanding of this. The FFRF does not. The constution does not grant you freedom FROM religion. It assures you freedom OF religion and religous expression. The state has a duty to protect the religious expression of Private Loeceur and the Gagne family as well as the vets no matter who's property its on.
pitbull tickler May 03, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I wanted to hear Bishop Tobin say "I'm sorry I sent my black-robed minions to wOOnsocket to diddle your kids." But he never raised the issue.
Dagny Taggart May 03, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Bob C, you need to do some homework. The cross as a symbol predates Jesus. It began in prehistoric times and can symbolize everything from fertility, humanity, the cardinal points in the human body, the four winds, the four seasons and more. This is NOT a crucifix. This memorial predates the Fire Departments so the memorial was infringed upon by the City. Do some homework, do some research, then post your nonsense if you like.
la_mouffette May 03, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Muddy waters...of the conversation. Muddy the waters of the legal legs of this case? no. If the Bishop had been the only person to speak, or even if Catholicism were the only viewpoint presented, or the MC, I'd be uncomfortable. And as I said, if it were me, I'd have emphasized this as NOT a violation of sep. of Church and State. But you seem to think the sky is falling, legally speaking. Stop and think for a second. One of many speeches made today is unlikely to effect the Constitutional rights of a veteran who died almost a century ago.
la_mouffette May 03, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Did they speak?? Jim....did you attend this rally?
la_mouffette May 03, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Separation of Church and State is part of the law of the land, Jay-- it is one of your Civil Rights as an American. It's why Jessica Ahlquist had the legal right to not go to a school that had the appearance of promoting prayer. BUT! you're dead-on in thinking that the right of a veteran to have a memorial grave marker that reflects his or her religious (or nonreligious) beliefs is INDEED part of that law. The Supreme Court's interpretation says that the government cannot generally promote, nor enforce upon any citizen, any specific religion OR irreligion. Thus, if this were, say, a new government monument for all those who died in the war in Afghanistan, then something like a cross would be really inappropriate. But because this is for four Christians, and is intended to be the surrogate grave marker of the first of them, it actually concerns the first amendment rights of that veteran!
Still Hope May 03, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I have to partially disagree with la-m here. Though legally all of the crosses and religious epitaphs from the rally won't hurt legally, it certainly gives the FFRF a rejuvenated spirit to maintain their cause. If it were a city standing for their monument and war vets displaying their honor, then I feel the FFRF would back down on principle alone. Instead, we just added more fuel to the fight by displaying our collective religious colors.
Memere May 03, 2012 at 06:53 PM
The US Constitution says "Freedom of religion" It does NOT say Freedom From religion, although it would appear that there are some people today who want to re-write our Constitution. You know, I've noticed that many people who are posting are complaining about the Bishop speaking but NO ONE has complained about the other religious leaders of other faiths who were in attendance and who spoke. EVERYONE in our country has a right to speak. It's called Freedom of Speech and that;s in our Constitution also! If you don't agree what a speaker is saying, just listen politely, you don't have to agree. That's called tolerance for another's beliefs. This intolerance is beginning to sound like what Hitler tried to do in Germany and we all know how evil that was!!!! If we are to survive as a Nation, we need to start tolerating other people's beliefs and start getting along!
Russell Archambault May 03, 2012 at 08:35 PM
F For many years having to go to the fire station for personal business, parking next to the monument, and noticing the decay and feeling sad of its condition, I now thank FFRF, and what they stand for. If it wasn't for FFRF, i probably would never really have understood, how important that block of concrete, bronze plaque,and beautiful cross stands for. Four great men,only four, from our city, that i learned about, who gave their lives for all of us. god bless you FFRF
Tommy Tutone May 03, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Why don't you make love to it next time you see it.
la_mouffette May 03, 2012 at 11:38 PM
It's true, Russell... it's not particularly big or noticeable from the street, and after almost 100 years of exposure to the elements, age was really starting to damage it. being almost bankrupt, the city certainly didn't have means to care for any of the general monuments dedicated to our veterans, much less a relatively obscure, not very visible one that honours only four men. But thanks indirectly to the FFRF, we now have a fund to restore it!
Jim May 04, 2012 at 12:08 AM
la_mouffette, not to be rude but I already stated that I did not attend the rally. I also said that the Bishop certainly had the right to go. Most of my information came from the news reports most of which only indicated the Bishop. If others church leaders or religious spoke, then they should not have spoken either. Once again, if this is pursued in court it will become a constitutional matter. Just as the Bishop said that he would not want the government to tell him what to do then he or any other religious leaders should not be stating what the governement should do. Separation of church and state goes both ways. La_mouffette I wonder If it was an atheistic symbol (of which there are several) that was being questioned would you fight just as hard?
Dan Warren May 07, 2012 at 08:45 PM
There seems to be quite a lot of misinformation about the history of the Cross Monument. It wasn't built in 1921. "The truth is that the monument was built in 1952. In 1921 the small patch of land, a traffic island really, was dedicated to William Jolicoeur, called, because of the French immigrants that made up the majority of Woonsocket at the time, “Place Jolicoeur.” At the time of the dedication of Place Jolicoeur nine other sites were also dedicated to fallen Woonsocket WWI vets in ceremonies celebrating a visit from the supreme commander of allied forces during the war, Marshall Foch." "There was no monument at Place Jolicoeur when it was dedicated."
Dan Warren May 07, 2012 at 08:46 PM
"This more accurate history of the monument changes some of the context of the monument’s historicity. The monument was constructed at a time of Cold War fear in the United States, and religiosity, particularly Christian religiosity, experienced a huge uptick. “In God We Trust” was added to our money in 1956, “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 and President Truman issued the first Presidential Declaration in favor of The National Day of Prayer in 1952." "An anti-Communistic religious fervor had gripped the country, and was being expressed through very public displays of overt Christianity. The wall separating Church and State was allowed to crumble during this period. Seen in this light, the Woonsocket Cross is simply another manifestation of anti-Constitutional religious encroachment into our secular government." http://www.rifuture.org/the-history-of-the-woonsocket-cross.html Ain't history cool?
Dan Warren May 07, 2012 at 09:36 PM
"In 1921 a war weary nation was pulling itself together after the horrors and losses of the Great War, later and unfortunately to be known as World War I. Cities and towns across the nation began the process of mourning and memorializing their dead, and Woonsocket, Rhode Island was no exception. That year the small mill city dedicated ten "squares" to Woonsocket natives who had fallen in the war. The squares were set at intersections throughout the city, and dedicated during a visit from the supreme commander of the allied forces during the war, Ferdinand Foch, on tour in the United States after retirement." "One thing stands out: The lack of any kind of religious imagery on any of the squares. The veterans are all honored with secular, not religious symbols and words. Outside the Jolicoeur location I did not see a single cross on publicly owned land. I did not read a single mention of God, or see any prayers. What I saw was imagery that expressed the heartfelt thanks of a citizenry wise enough to know that church and state should not be mixed." "The fact is that none of the places I visited are considered in any way to be special areas for fallen WWI soldiers. This is not my opinion, it's the opinion of the generations of people who have ignored, renamed or paved over these squares." Please read the entire essay, if you really value the sacrifice made by veterans... http://www.cautionchurchahead.com/


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