Protesting carolers disrupt Rhode Island tree-lighting ceremony
Angry carolers singing "O Christmas Tree" descended on a tree-lighting ceremony at the Rhode Island Statehouse this week to make the point that the governor shouldn't have called the 17-foot spruce a ''holiday'' tree.
Gov. Lincoln Chaffee made national news last week when he insisted that his description of the tree was an effort to include those who celebrate different religions. He told the Associated Press after the tree lighting, "If it's in my house, it's a Christmas tree, but when I'm representing all of Rhode Island, I have to be respectful of everyone. Now we can get back to next year's budget ... with pleasure."
Chafee's office heard from 3,500 protesters, with all but 700 coming from out of state. His office received only 92 calls of support, his office told the AP.
At Tuesday's tree lighting in Providence, a few dozen carolers singing "O Christmas Tree" interrupted a performance by a children's chorus. The local Catholic diocese also sponsored a competing tree-lighting ceremony a block from the Statehouse, and a Republican legislator erected another tree in a hallway as an alternative to the holiday tree, the AP reported.
A mother who came to hear her son perform with the children's choir told the AP that people on both sides of the tree dispute needed to settle down and remember the spirit of the season.
"Why are they making such a big deal about this?" asked Deborah McNerney of Pawtucket. "It's Christmas, after all."
-- Geraldine Baum in New York
Photo: The tree lighting at the Statehouse in Rhode Island was used as an opportunity for carolers and others to deride the governor's decision to call the spruce a "holiday" tree. "O Christmas Tree" was sung in protest. Credit: Elise Amendola / Associated Press