DaRosa and Grebien diverge on the public face of responding to violence

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6/1/2021

City Councilor Melissa DaRosa, left, and Mayor Donald Grebien.

PAWTUCKET – For several years, says City Councilor Melissa DaRosa, she has been asking city and police administrations to hold press conferences after major violent crimes to better connect with the community.

Now that she’s on the council, she said, she recently reached out to Mayor Donald Grebien to tell him again that she believed a lack of public statements at the scene created a feeling of not being s ‘worry about it and a lack of connection to a suffering community. Grebien’s response, DaRosa said, was that he didn’t want to get into publicity stunts.

“I cried after the meeting. Every time someone is killed in this city, it really bothers me, it really affects me, ”she said. “I want to see leadership, and we don’t have it.”

But Grebien categorically rejects the idea that he is not directing the crime and does not care.

He said the conversation with DaRosa took place after he contacted her and many other community leaders, including Chachi Carvalho and Eric Lopez, saying the city must unite to fight violence and “not to divide and fight for ridiculous things”.

There is no doubt that DaRosa also cares deeply, said Grebien, with a long-standing passion for ending street violence and some personal connections with some in the city who have passed away, but she cannot. – not yet have a full understanding of how he sees other aspects to think about when deciding how to react in the public sphere.

The whole city is in this battle to reduce violence together, Grebien said. DaRosa does it one way, he does it another, but everyone is doing their part to move the community forward. He noted how he made statements about the recent murders in the city and has taken many steps since to be proactive in tackling the violence.

Kassandra Florez was hired as a constituent liaison specifically for the purpose of communicating with the community, Grebien said, and building relationships with the Nonviolence Institute and others. Taking a holistic approach, the city is working closely with the Nonviolence Institute and others on strategies to reduce violence in Pawtucket, he said.

There is a certain balance to be found in the wake of the violence, added the mayor. He said his personal style has always been to contact the victim’s family directly instead of holding a large press conference where little can be said due to the ongoing nature of an investigation.

He and chef Tina Goncalves clearly cared about attending a vigil for Tatyana Francois, the 19-year-old girl who was shot dead in a vehicle last month, Grebien said, but they are not going to give people hope by acting like if there was a significant development in the case if there is not. All he asks DaRosa and the others is that they continue to be part of the solution and understand that the city’s practices will never be perfectly to their liking, he said.

He noted how his own son came to see him after Leonardo Tavares was murdered on Randall Street, asking him what he can do about it as mayor. Tavares was a father and a child, his son pointed out.

DaRosa said she is not looking for publicity stunts from the administration, and she believes the police are doing a good job in their investigations, but that there must be some level of straightforward public connection with a neighborhood after a shooting. This is what is happening in other towns and villages, DaRosa said.

“At least they’re saying something and that’s what strengthens relationships and partnerships with the community,” she said.

DaRosa, who works as an advocate for victims of crime for the Providence Housing Authority, said she did not believe the mayor respected her as a person or council member by asking her to bridge the gap with the community.

“To me it just leaves an unsettling feeling,” she said of what sometimes appears to be silence. “It makes it seem like you don’t care which community gun violence affects the most.”

She said she doesn’t believe in any way this administration wants to see someone die of violence in the city, and she appreciates the strengthening of the relationship with the Nonviolence Institute, but she wants more. She said she wanted to “strengthen the relationship the city has with people who don’t feel like they have that relationship.”



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