The Providence Journal’s coverage of the assault on traditional marriage advocates in Warwick, Rhode Island on July 28 has consistently downplayed how pepper spray was used on the conservative protesters, in favor of how food was thrown at them.
ProJo.com’s Wednesday report on the attack ran with the headline, “Same-sex marriage protesters assaulted with food,” and didn’t mention the pepper spray until the second-to-last paragraph. The following morning, reporter Kate Branson used a more nuanced headline (“Update: 4 accused of hurling food at activists in Warwick”), but at least mentioned the pepper spray in the second paragraph.
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, also known as the American TFP, is a conservative Catholic group based in the central Pennsylvania town of Spring Grove, and supported by hundreds of thousands of donors all over the U.S. They are conducting a “traditional marriage crusade” in the northeastern states of New York, Rhode Island, and Maine. “Caravans” of their young volunteers are traveling across those three states, and stop at busy intersections, holding signs expressing their support of traditional marriage, which they believe to be a sacrament.
One of their “caravans” stopped in Warwick on the 28th. According to their press release, the TFP volunteers were at a “busy intersection, getting strong support for traditional marriage.” Then the assault began: “Three women approached us -- one threw mayonnaise, while the other two grappled with our photographer. Then we were sprayed with mace. Finally, a burly woman got out of a car and punched our photographer in the face. They shouted obscenities the whole time.”
The Providence Journal’s two reports on the assault corroborate their account. Reporter Maria Armental filed the first one just before 5 pm on Wednesday. She did not mention the American TFP’s name during the report, and focused almost entirely on the “assaulted with food” component of her headline:
The police are investigating an assault Tuesday on Bald Hill Road.
The weapon of choice: soda, salsa, eggs ...
“Your basic garden variety of food condiments,” Capt. Robert Nelson said Wednesday.
It started as the four men stood at the median on Bald Hill Road and East Avenue around 2:40 p.m. protesting against same-sex marriage.
The location, Nelson noted, afforded them a roomy median and prime visibility.
They caught the attention of a group of women in one of the cars.
The women, who apparently objected to their message, flung a soda bottle at the men and vowed to return.
And back they were, about 15 minutes later, hurling at the men a mélange of food ingredients and drinks and a full repertoire of profanities, Nelson said.
One of the women swashed a protester with pepper spray.
No one was hurt and no arrests have been made, Nelson said.
“No one was hurt”? Pepper spray was used during the attack, and, according to the TFP’s press release, “the Catholic group was pepper sprayed, punched and sustained head injuries.”
Kate Branson’s report, which was posted just after noon on Thursday, gave additional details, as well as announcing that arrests had been made in the case. The American TFP’s corporate name, the Foundation for Christian Civilization, Inc., was used in the story:
The salsa and eggs stopped flying, but the police continued to investigate. Now four young women face charges of assault and disorderly conduct.
They’re accused of hurling food and drinks and spraying pepper spray at a group of men who stood in the median on Bald Hill Road and East Avenue Tuesday afternoon carrying signs supporting traditional marriage, Capt. Robert Nelson said Thursday morning....
Wearing suits and red sashes draped over their shoulders, the group also was in Providence earlier this week, and an account of that is posted on the group's site as well, with an author’s name listed as Richard Lyon. That’s the same name of a 43-year-old man who is listed on the Warwick police report as a witness to the apparent attack in that city.
The men told the police that women driving in a Honda Civic stopped near the median where the men carried a sign and banner, then hurled a bottle at the men once the light turned green.
The car pulled away. “We’ll be back!” the men said one of the car’s occupants yelled.
The men saw the car park nearby, according to the police report, and one told the police the women then “made a beeline to us, shouting at us with bottles in their hands.”
Thursday evening, the police arrested four women: Melissa Migliaccio, 22, of 506 Phoenix Ave. in Cranston; Amanda L. Zangrilli, 23, of 54 Curson St., No. 4, in West Warwick; Kristen A. Scungio, 19, also of the Curson Street address; and a 17-year-old female from Pontiac Street in Warwick, whom the police have not named because she is a juvenile.
All are charged with at least one charge of battery or simple assault, and with disorderly conduct. The 17-year-old faces a more serious charge as well -- felony assault with a dangerous weapon or substance, according to the police.
Now, imagine if the situation was reversed, and a bunch of same-sex “marriage” supporters were assaulted in Rhode Island by four young conservatives armed with pepper spray. Would the Providence Journal play up the airborne picnic items?