Last month, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion rights supporters showed up in droves across the country to protest the decision. Jennifer Rourke, a Democratic candidate for Rhode Island state Senate and the founder of Rhode Island Political Cooperative, was one such protester. It was at an abortion rights protest in Providence that her Republican, anti-abortion opponent, an off-duty police officer named Jeann Lugo, confronted and punched Rourke in the face. “This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won’t give up,” Rourke tweeted at the time.
On Tuesday, Michael C. Carreiro, president of the Warwick firefighters union, Local 2748, filed to run against Rourke for Rhode Island’s Senate District 29, which is being vacated by a 28-year incumbent. Though Carreiro, a white man, is running as a Democratic challenger to Rourke, on Friday, Rourke tweeted a photo of Carreiro posing in blackface. This photo of Carreiro, Rourke notes, was even his profile picture:
Somehow, it gets worse: Carreiro also seems to have “liked” a Facebook page called “support officer Darren Wilson”—surely you remember Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown in 2014, expressed zero remorse, and even went on to boast about it?
In another Facebook post of Carreiro that Rourke unearthed, he appears to pose and smile next to none other than Tucker Carlson, and also “likes” the Tucker Carlson Tonight show’s Facebook page.
“Wearing Blackface is and was never ok. This should be disqualifying. We need to defeat Michael Carreiro,” Rourke wrote.
The Boston Globe notes the photo of Carreiro in blackface is dated from July 19, 2009. Carreiro has since issued this statement to the newspaper: “The photos you are referring to were taken at a 2009 themed event I attended dressed as the singer James Brown. I want to be clear that this was wrong. It was offensive and unacceptable—and I’m sorry.”
Despite Carreiro’s overtly racist behavior, according to Rourke, her Senate district’s Democratic committee has been ignoring her phone calls and requests for its endorsement. “None of them returned my calls. I am a mother of four, a reproductive rights activist, and I’ve worked multiple jobs my whole life,” she told the Boston Globe. “The fact they would not consider endorsing me over someone who wore Blackface and celebrates Tucker Carlson just shows how broken the leadership of the Rhode Island Democratic Party is.”
Rourke’s experience vying for her Senate seat, thus far, is ultimately emblematic of the dual racism and misogyny to which Black women in politics are so often subjected. Her Senate race first made national news after she was physically assaulted by her Republican opponent for her support for reproductive rights. The Senate race is now being hurled back into the spotlight for her Democratic opponent’s documented history of racism, and Rhode Island’s Democratic Party still seems unwilling to intervene and support her.
Rourke and Carreiro are set to face off for the Democratic nomination to represent Rhode Island’s 29th Senate District on Sept. 13.