RICHMOND — As calls for his expulsion from the Rhode Island House of Representatives continued to grow Monday, Rep. Justin Price (R-Richmond, Hopkinton, Exeter) maintained that while he had attended President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C., rally last Wednesday, he had not been involved in the riot at the Capitol.
“I went down there for a rally that was supposed to be peaceful,” he said Monday. “I did not agree with the chaos and did not get involved in the chaos.”
State and local Republicans either defended Price’s attendance at the rally or declined to comment on the matter.
Reached on Sunday, House Minority Leader Blake Filippi reiterated a statement he had made earlier in which he indicated that there would not be an inquiry into Price’s actions.
“House members are expelled for bad acts, not bad thoughts,” he said. “There are no allegations that Rep. Price did anything other than attend what he believed to be a lawful protest and to express his opinion about what happened that sad day — and this is where a House inquiry ends.”
Price said on social media Sunday that he believed that the Washington event had been infiltrated by members of Antifa, a loose-knit antiracist and antifascist group, and Black Lives Matter.
“Yes I marched to the capitol with 1 million peaceful patriots[.] Unfortunately ANTIFA/BLM infiltrated our peaceful movement and they got caught in the act,” he stated.
Richmond Republican Town Committee Chairman Paul Michaud supported Price’s assertion that he had not been involved in the riot.
“Justin Price was not involved in any kind of a mob riot or anything like that,” he said. “As a citizen, he had a right to be there. He did not break into the Capitol building and so I think it’s just a lot of hype.”
Scott Bill Hirst, Hopkinton Republican Town Committee Chairman and a member of the Hopkinton Town Council, said he did not know the details of what had happened and had not seen footage of the riot because he does not own a television.
“I heard about Justin but don't know a lot about it, but I want to learn more before commenting,” he said.
State Democrats were vocal in their condemnation of Price.
Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Hopkinton, Westerly) pointed out that Price had refused to wear a mask at the Jan. 5 swearing-in ceremony for legislators.
“Why would anyone be surprised that Justin Price went to Washington?” he said in an email message. “Justin refused to abide by the requirements at the Vets' Auditorium on Tuesday during the swearing-in ceremony, which required everyone to wear either a mask or a face shield. Both Price and Rep. [Robert] Quattrocchi (R-Cranston, Scituate) had to sit in back of the stage away from all the other legislators because of their refusal.
"Then Justin goes to Washington, D.C., to join the march on the Capitol. Other state legislators were arrested for their participation when it was found that they were there and entered the Capitol building. Let's see if Justin will be next to be arrested for the sedition and insurrection against our government.”
The Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus issued a statement on Sunday calling for Price’s expulsion from the legislature.
“A true American patriot upholds and honors the laws and integrity of our country and Constitution,” the statement reads. “The only honorable course of action left for Price to take is to immediately resign from office. Unfortunately, instead of admitting to the deep wrongs he was a part of, he has opted to peddle debunked conspiracy theories to defend his actions. This leads us to believe that honor is no longer a virtue this Representative is capable of possessing. That is why we are calling on Speaker Sherkarchi and the members of the House to expel Mr. Price from office.”
Jennifer Douglas, a Democrat who has run twice without success in District 34 against Sen. Elaine Morgan (R-Hopkinton, Charlestown, Richmond) and represents South County on the caucus, said members had learned over the weekend that Price revealed on social media that he had been present at the March but had not entered the Capitol.
“He left Rhode Island as a state representative, drove down to Washington, D.C., to do what? To protest the Electoral College? To protest a legitimate election?” she said. “And the fact that he showed such terrible judgment in doing that and to really spread propaganda that it wasn’t a free and fair election, that there’s something that we’re hiding … that’s what’s really appalling to all of us. What are you doing participating in, really, the downfall of our democracy, and it’s really disturbing to watch our elected officials do this.”
Price detractors have launched two petitions calling for his resignation on change.org and moveon.org. At press time, the moveon.org petition had more than 1,900 signatures and the change.org petition had more than 1,200 signatures.