On Monday evening, I came home to an avalanche of posts in my facebook newsfeed regarding the latest installment of the PawSox ownership's tour of the state. Apparently there was a police detail hired by the PawSox ownership - at the most recent stop on the "We're not listening" tour, which took place at the Cranston Public Library a venue - I might add, that is already funded by taxpayer dollars - which has a benefit to all Cranstonians, and any Rhode Islander that has a library card, for that matter.
One of the more disturbing posts I saw was a video of the removal of a US citizen and Cranston, Rhode Island resident from the "discussion."
Not because he became violent. Not because he advanced on Steinberg and his cronies. He did not appear to be mentally unstable. He was removed from the meeting for speaking his mind; for letting the rich, powerful, and politically connected know that he was, to use a tired quote, "mad as hell, and wasn't going to take it anymore."
What I saw - in the video evidence - was a man being denied his right to question authority, and not even elected or legal authority. An alleged public meeting, held on publicly owned real estate, where a member of the public was SILENCED by the rich and powerful who had deemed speech in support of a miserable and short-sighted idea appropriate, and speech against a miserable and short-sighted idea, inappropriate.
“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”
"The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State."
- Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propaganda minister
It was now just before 9 p.m. on a Monday evening, and that question kept popping into my head. I needed to know. At this point, I used a thing called an internet search engine to search for a contact phone number for Allan Fung, residing in Cranston, RI. As I typed his name into my browser's search bar, I thought, "This is a shot in the dark. There is no way that the mayor of one of Rhode Island's largest communities has a listed phone number," but sure enough, he does. at 8:57 p.m. on Monday night, I called Mr. Fung at his publicly listed phone number. Here's a screenshot from my cellphone's call log.
Me: Hello. Is this Mayor Allan Fung?
Me: Hello, mayor. My name is Dave Fisher. I am the co-host of The Coalition airing Saturday nights on WPRO. I just have a couple of questions regarding the PawSox meeting that took place tonight at the Cranston Public Library.
Fung: You're calling me at home? This is inappropriate.
Me: With all due respect, mayor, you are a publicly elected official with a publicly listed number.
Fung: I've never heard of you or your show.
Me: I understand. I'd be glad to have an off-the-record conversation if you're more comfortable with that.
Fung: How do I know you are who you say you are? If you want to speak to me, call my office and speak to my press secretary.
Me: Thank you, mayor. I'll do just that.
Fung: This is harassment. (Hangs up.)
At this point, I finished up some work, planned my journalistic course for the following day, and went to bed around 10:30.
Well, I never got around to calling Fung the next day because I felt that a second call, even if placed through the so-called "proper" channels, might be construed as harassment. Why, you might ask?
When I checked my phone the next morning, I noticed that I had received two new voicemails overnight. The first was received at 11:16 p.m. Monday night from a Sgt. Michael Gates, who identified himself as a member of the Cranston Police Department's Criminal Investigation Unit. He asked that I call him on his cellphone within a half hour because "his night was coming to an end." The second was received at 8:23 a.m. on Tuesday, from Capt. Sean Carmody of the Cranston PD who said he was calling to "verify a conversation that (I) had with the mayor."
To say that I was intimidated by these calls is an understatement. To use the local vernacular: I was scared shitless.
Frightened, but knowing that nothing I had done rose to the legal definition of harassment, I did what journalists do when there is a story to tell, but in the telling, one's objectivity may be questioned. I called another journalist. Then I called a lawyer. I can't thank Kate Nagle of GoLocalProv.com enough for the care and commitment she demonstrated in ferreting out, and publishing the story.
I'll also say that the urgency that the Cranston PD displayed after my phone call to Fung seems to have diminished. I never returned their calls, and have not received a follow-up call since. I will continue to check in with the Providence District Courthouse to see if an arrest warrant is issued, however.
Tune in tomorrow for the second installment of this unfolding saga. I'll call it Haters gonna hate: The Fallout.