2017-03-09 / Opinion

Newport, We Hardly Know Ye


Let’s talk sidewalks—again. Last week it was cigarette butts; this week, it’s green beer. With the St. Patrick’s Day parade right around the corner, Newporters are already girding their loins. With spectators anticipating the best of what the area’s police and fire departments, school bands, schools, and civic organizations have to offer, many are also expecting the worst.

Last year in this space, the topic was “The Responsibilities of Being Irish,” a warning about the unpleasantness unfolding on the Newport sidewalks during what is supposed to be a pleasant, family and community-oriented event. One comment resonates: “Being Irish for a day should not be confused with having license to drink to great excess, to urinate in public, or to otherwise behave in appallingly unflattering and antisocial ways.”

The parade begins at 11 a.m. from the steps of City Hall and will continue down Thames Street, and end at Saint Augustin’s Church. Somehow the celebration of one nation’s heritage and contribution to the American culture has gone awry. The association of the St. Patrick’s Day parade with too much green beer for breakfast, and sick college-age kids and obnoxious behavior has become automatic. If the sidewalks don’t rise up to meet them, they’ll descend to meet the sidewalks.

According to the Newport Police Department dispatch log for March 12, 2016 (the day of last year’s parade), police responded to 359 calls, and made 83 arrests. Of those, 34 were expunged. A tally of the non-expunged totaled eight from Newport, and one from Middletown. The rest were from off the island, so that’s a bit face-saving.

It’s expensive too.The penalty for carrying an open $2 can of beer is $750. Urinating in public (no one can put a value on that!) carries a price tag of $750, and being too loud will set you back $1,000. Small comfort is that the majority of arrests or citations—and the majority of those caught with their pants down—are not from the island.

Still, there is no easy answer. Vigilance won’t work. Preaching ahead of time lands on deaf ears. Considering the fact that the predicted temperature for Saturday morning is a frigid 20 degrees, Mother Nature may have more of an enforcing impact than the local gendarmes.

But back to the sidewalks: some local establishments, we have heard, are planning a post-parade cleanup events. The Brick Alley Pub is sponsoring a next day cleanup of its sidewalk space, and offering a $10 voucher to all who show up. This is a great way to do the final sweep and put the green accessories away until next year, and be thankful, for those who remain, that we live in Newport.

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