Rhode Island governor, mayor separated by police after tense confrontation

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Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza was physically blocked from Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee after confronting him about the state’s impending contract with the Providence Teachers Union Wednesday.

Elorza and McKee, both Democrats who are expected to run against each other in the 2022 gubernatorial race, were at a ceremonial lighting celebrating the return of the WaterFire basins along the Providence River when Elorza was seen yelling in McKee’s face and pointing his finger.

“Governor, this is too important for you to play the coward role on this,” Elorza said in footage captured by NBC 10. “You gotta face the community on this.”

“Mayor, back up,” McKee’s state police detail said as he pushed Elorza away from the governor.

Elorza later told reporters he was calling on McKee to release his collective bargaining agreement with the teachers union, which the governor said will not be released until it is finalized.

“You can’t be afraid to confront the community,” Elorza told WPRI. “Sell it to the community. If you believe it’s a transformational contract, stand before the community and tell them why you believe it’s transformational. But simply hiding and doing it in secret and wanting to wrap this up before facing the community, that’s not the way that this is supposed to be done.”

Elorza did not apologize for his approach or for the “coward” remark.

McKee declined to comment on the exchange.

“Right now, we’re celebrating WaterFire. I’ll have more to say about that at my Tuesday press conference,” the governor told NBC 10 after the event. “Let’s hope the contract does get ratified on Friday.”

The union’s membership plans to vote on the deal in Providence on Friday. It includes a $3,000 stipend for all 1,900 teachers, pay raises and gives principals more power on hiring, NBC 10 reported. 

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