Black Lives Matter vows to protest Rhode Island senator ‘wherever we need to go’ until he disavows ‘white’ beach club

·3 min read

Black Lives Matter has given US senator Sheldon Whitehouse an ultimatum: cut all ties with an exclusive, allegedly all-white beach club in his home state of Rhode Island, or expect round-the-clock protests.In addition to more obvious kinds of racial segregation in housing and employment, many outdoor recreation facilities like beaches and public pools were formally segregated for decades, and reman tacitly so.

“We’ll go to his club, we’ll go to his office, we’ll go to his home — wherever we need to go,” Mark Fisher, one of the directors of the Rhode Island chapter of the organisation, told WNLE. “This club is a proven racist club with exclusive ties to supremacy and exclusion, and that’s something that’s not gonna be tolerated by me, by my associates, my affiliates or my organization.”

Mr Whitehouse, the scion of a prominent political family, was a member of the exclusive Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport until 1991, when he transferred his shares in the club to his wife.

“There have been calls for me to resign from the club, which I understand,” the senator said last month. “However, I have no membership to resign, nor will I ask my wife or any other family members to do so," the senator said. "First, they are on the right side of pushing for improvements. Second, and more importantly, my relationship with my family is not one in which I tell them what to do."

The club, formally known as the Spouting Rock Beach Association, where reserving a beachside cabana costs tens of thousands of dollars, has also denied that it is all-white.

"Recent characterizations in the press and in other commentary about Baileys Beach Club are inaccurate and false,” the club told the Providence Journal in June. “Over many years, Club members and their families have included people of many racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds from around the world who come to Newport every summer. Our membership comes from all over the globe to our small club and we welcome the diversity of view and background they bring to our community."

Still, club members have said that membership in the club, made up of many of America’s elite families like the Vanderbilts and Astors, wasn’t very diverse, despite its stated policies.

“Jewish, yes,’’ Audrey Oswald, a lifelong member replied, told The New York Times about which minority groups are actually members of the club. ‘’Blacks, not really.”

The beach club issue has taken on extra relevance because of the discrepancies between it and senator Whitehouse’s civil rights work, which has previously earned him an “A” rating from the Providence chapter of the NAACP.

“The senator says he’s about systemic change in America,” Gary Dantzler, founder of Black Lives Matter Rhode Island, told The Washington Post. “But the problem that I have with [his membership in an allegedly all-white club] is that it’s almost a contradiction. Someone with that power that we elected to be our senator, our watchdog, he’s not fulfilling the part of being transparent to African Americans, so I have a huge problem with that.”

The Independent has reached out to the senator and the beach club for comment.Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Senator Whitehouse transferred his shares of the club to his wife in 2017. He transferred the shares in 1991. We regret the error.

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