ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement in response to the executive order issued by South Kingstown Town Manager Robert Zarnetske barring any gatherings of 15 or more people in the town for any reason, and creating special “public nuisance” penalties for certain gatherings, but only if attended by URI students:
“This executive order is an extraordinary abuse of municipal powers. It goes well beyond the thoughtful restrictions that have been put in place by the Governor and Department of Health. By its own terms, this Order bans any classes at URI or any other school in the town with more than 15 people, no matter what social distancing practices are in place, and similarly prohibits a wide array of other activities that are allowable anywhere else in the state.
“In addition, the Order’s singling out for special punishment of people at gatherings where such conduct as littering or unlawful parking takes place, but only when URI students are present, is grossly unfair and divests responsibility from the town’s population as a whole in seeking to contain Covid-19.
“The ACLU urges the South Kingstown Town Council to promptly revoke this deeply troubling Order.”
UPDATE: In response to the ACLU's objections, South Kingstown issued an amended executive order that favorably addressed our key concerns.