Call & Times

Local paramedic requests withdrawal of council resolution

- By RUSS OLIVO rolivo@woonsocket­call.com

WOONSOCKET – The House of Representa­tives passed the same resolution last month with little ado, but the City Council never even got a chance to discuss a proposed measure honoring the heroics of a Millbury, Mass., paramedic – because the prospectiv­e honoree unexpected­ly asked for it to be withdrawn.

Appearing in uniform, Jeremy “Remi” Graber, a Woonsocket resident, stepped to the lectern in Harris Hall Monday and made some oblique comments referring to an ongoing debate about whether he was deserving of the recognitio­n, but most spectators probably had no idea what all the fuss was about. Still, Graber made it plain that he didn’t want to fan the flames by opening up the resolution for discussion among council members.

“There’s been a lot of public debate about the appropriat­eness of this resolution,” he said. “I mostly wanted to stay out of the discussion of it all.”

The resolution was offered by Councilman Alexander Kithes, a newcomer who has repeatedly butted heads members of the council majority. Graber thanked Kithes for introducin­g the resolution, but he appeared to be addressing others on the council when he departed the lectern, saying, “I don’t expect people to agree with me or my politics.”

Graber didn’t elaborate, but in 2016 he was one of seven protesters arrested on federal charges for breaching a security fence around the Democratic National

Convention in Philadelph­ia. Of the seven, all described as supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, he was one of only two who were held without bail for a time on federal charges because he was in possession of knives. It’s unclear if the government ever pursued the charges – his father said at the time prosecutor­s were about to drop them, and on his own social media, Graber says he doesn’t have a criminal record.

Also on social media, Gra

ber has described his sexual orientatio­n as “non-binary/ non-gender identified” and he has posted photograph­s of himself wearing women’s clothing and makeup. On other occasions, Graber, an Army veteran, has appeared to advocate burning the American flag as an acceptable form of civic protest.

While councilors did not take up the resolution – for discussion or a vote – some members of the general public addressed the council to support Graber even after he asked for the resolution to be withdrawn.

“It saddens me that just because of sexual orientatio­n or

political affiliatio­n that others believe this honor wasn’t deserved,” said Bonnie Pierkarski.

Another man shook Graber’s hand and thanked him.

The House resolution recognizin­g Graber for his actions was passed on Jan. 30 and had been co-sponsored by Reps. Michael Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), Stephen Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket), Bob Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland), House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Deputy Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi.

On Nov. 19, the resolution says, Graber was on duty in

Millbury when he came upon a Massachuse­tts state trooper who was struggling to gain control of a suspect on the side of I-290. The trooper couldn’t get to his radio, so Graber had his partner call for help and then jumped into the fray, helping the trooper subdue and disarm the suspect, who was apparently in possession of a concealed box-cutter. Graber was treated at a hospital for a minor shoulder injury after the fracas.

“Whereas, Mr. Graber represents all that we admire and revere about our first responders,” he personally disregarde­d his own safety in order to help protect a State Trooper in great danger and to help subdue a dangerous suspect... therefore, be it resolved, that this House of Representa­tives of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation­s hereby honors and thanks Paramedic Jeremy Graber for his heroic actions..” the resolution says.

The Senate also honored Graber with a citation. He posted a picture of himself with State Sen. Melissa Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) on Facebook after receiving it.

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