A SIGN OF DISSENT Picerno gets his message across.
Charles Picerno, a disheveled rabble-rouser, stands at the back of the crowd while Lincoln Chafee is inaugurated as the state's 58th governor.
And if his lusty booing, occasionally tamped down by the authorities, is not enough to convey his displeasure, the sign he totes does the trick: "CHAFEE, only 35% of R.I. Voted for You . . . You DOPE."
Chafee, he amiably explains to an interviewer afterward, has plainly been installed by the New World Order — a claim that seems borne out by the small fleet of Black Hawk helicopters that fly overhead just before the governor's speech.
Picerno is not the only protester here this day. But the assembled are, in the main, quite friendly toward the new governor.
Rhode Island's poet laureate reads a lovely verse about the new chief. And Chafee, standing on the South Portico of the State House, speaks of shared sacrifice and an end to "finger pointing and blame," before pointing the finger at his predecessor.
On his left and right flanks are various Revolutionary and Civil War re-enactors — red and blue ornaments for the occasion. Among them: Charles Walsh, 75, of Tiverton, and Paul Brunelle, 50, of Exeter, both members of the Rhode Island Second Regiment.
Standing in the State House foyer afterward, Walsh says it is quite easy to distill the difference between Chafee's inauguration and departing Governor Donald Carcieri's first. "Warmer, briefer," he says.
Walsh, Brunelle, and a third re-enactor on hand that day, Dave Cunningham, are also members of the End Zone Militia, oft seen on the sidelines at New England Patriots games.
And Brunelle, setting his Brown Bess musket against his shoulder, reaches into a manila envelope and pulls out a photograph of the Militia — signed by all three — that he intends to deliver to the governor; Chafee, he understands, was at the Patriots' final regular season game.
Brunelle clearly enjoys the occasional brush with celebrity. But his favorite part of the job seems to lie elsewhere: namely, in the firing of his gun at Gillette Stadium after AC/DC's Brian Johnson exclaims, over the loudspeakers, "For those about to rock, we salute you."
Upstairs, the line to greet the governor and the other statewide officers sworn into office this day — Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts, Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, and Treasurer Gina Raimondo — stretches around three corners.
Casey Gartland, 43, of North Kingstown, and Dennis Harvey, 22, of North Kingstown, are near the back of the line. Both have red scarves around their necks — a quiet plug for the Rhode Island Disability Vote Project.
Gartland says he's here to register support for the state-sponsored mental health services, which haven't fared all that well in recent budget cycles. And he's quite pleased, incidentally, that the governor emphasized his support for same-sex marriage in his speech.
But it's not clear if he'll get to shake Chafee's hand before he has to leave for an appointment. Gartland takes a cell phone call from some comrades up ahead, urging him to join them.
He's leery, though, of cutting all the folks in front of him. "We're afraid all these people will beat us up," he says, smiling.