Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cranston residents protest sign urging cancer patient to die


Cranston police are refereeing a neighborhood dispute in which one neighbor posted a sign expressing the wish that the other, who is in remission from cancer, would die.

About 17 people staged a protest in front 50 Peerless St. in the Stadium neighborhood carrying signs that said "Leave our peaceful neighborhood," "Evil to cancer patients," "Shame on you," and "God please help him" -- all of them directed at the man who put up the sign, Edward Jimmis.

Cranston Police Chief Marco Palombo Jr. told those carrying placards that "the fact that you are all here together is a good thing." He said earlier he wanted neighbors to know that the police were involved and trying to work toward a resolution, and would keep an eye on the protest.

Bob Gold, 55, has been in remission for a year from Hodgkin's lymphoma, which he has been fighting since February 2009. He said that on Monday, he was in his backyard when he saw a holiday wreath with a red bow on the back window of Jimmis' garage. A hand-lettered note inside the wreath read: "Glad you have canser (sic). So die stupid."

Gold called Cranston police, who, he said, talked to Jimmis, but the police reported that Jimmis was not breaking any law. An officer asked Jimmis to take down the sign in the interest of neighborhood peace, Gold said, but Jimmis did not.

Gold then called a reporter, who tried twice to talk to Jimmis. Jimmis later changed the sign to one that said, "Love your neighbor."

This story was originally published at 6:43 p.m.

After changing the sign, Jimmis said he had posted the first sign after disputes with Gold. "I wanted to hit a nerve," he said.

Asked why he changed the sign, Jimmis said: "You're supposed to love your neighbor. I'm doing him a favor."

On Tuesday, Gold, unsatifisfied with the change, called the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and visited the mayor's office, speaking with Carlos E. Lopez, who handles constituent affairs.

"We can't legislate being a good neighbor," Lopez said later in the day. "You want to be able to help, but we have to make sure we respect everyone's legal rights. ... Let's hope for the better side of humanity to prevail on this."

Later, he told the protesters that the mayor supported Gold and "we don't tolerate this kind of behavior in Cranston."

Applying the city's community policing model, Chief Palombo on Tuesday afternoon sent a lieutenant, a sergeant and a patrol officer to discuss the situation with the men and work toward restoring harmony. Two patrol officers stood by and two members of the command staff joined Palombo in supporting the protest.

Palombo said late Tuesday afternoon that Jimmis had agreed that his original sign had been over the top, and he wouldn't post it again. Jimmis was also agreeable to sitting down with officers and Gold to talk things out, Palombo said.

Gold, however, said he wasn't yet ready to sit down with his neighbor.

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