navigation map

Pawtucket, R.I. Tuesday, October 16, 2001

'Intolerance has no
home in Pawtucket'

Community contributes more than $1,000 to help owner of vandalized store

RICH DUGAS/The times
Pawtucket businessman Rick Roth, left, presents a check for $1,036 to Kahlil Elmasre, owner of Bahra's Market, to pay for a new window on Elmasri's store. The window was smashed by vandals on Sept. 12, the day after terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

PAWTUCKET - Community members rallied recently to help a convenience store owner whose windows were vandalized in an apparent act of anti-Arab sentiment following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Pawtucket Rotary Club, local Pawtucket businesses and residents, artists and even Slater Junior High students took part in a fund-raising effort that netted $1,036 to replace two broken glass panes at Bahra's Market on Columbus Avenue.

The owner, Khalil Elmasri, a Muslim who was born in Lebanon, had been informed by his insurance company that his policy did not cover the cost of replacing the window panes.

A dozen rocks were thrown through the windows.

Reports of the vandalism quickly moved Rick Roth into action.

Roth is president of Mirror Image, a Pawtucket-based company that screen prints more than 1 million T-shirts annually, and an active Amnesty International member.

Through his business contacts and e-mail, Roth quickly put out the word to hundreds of businesses, colleagues and friends that a donation of $10 would help repair the broken window panes -- and send a powerful collective message that anti-Arab vandalism is not to be tolerated in the city.

More than 92 contributors would ultimately respond, some from as far away as Texas, Missouri and Colorado.

While the requested contribution was just $10, Roth said, he accepted $80 raised through the efforts of Slater Junior High students.

Additionally, Roth turned down the offers of two firms to contribute hundreds of dollars to fix the windows.

"I was willing to write a check for the total replacement costs of the windows, but it was important to show this to be a collective effort," he said.

According to Roth, employees of the city of Pawtucket and members of the Rotary Club and the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, headed by Patty Zacks, actively worked on his behalf to solicit donations.

"Strong public support for a real horrible situation turned into a real positive one," Roth said.

As to those persons who vandalized Bahra's Market, "they're misguided," he said.

"The people in Pawtucket are decent and hardworking and don't want to see anybody unfairly treated."

"Bin Laden's call for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States should not be used as an excuse for violence against innocent business owners of Arab descent," said Mayor James E. Doyle, who applauded Roth's efforts.

Doyle, who himself donated to the fund-raiser, added, "Intolerance has no home in the city of Pawtucket."

Peter Holden was pleased to see about 50 percent of the local Rotary Club members make contributions.

Roth is club president, and is also executive director of Blackstone Valley RIARC."Our involvement with this project was to send a strong message out that our community will not accept intolerance," Holden said.

"The Pawtucket Rotary Club has always been actively involved in supporting activities that help bring the community together," Holden said, noting that his nonprofit group has worked hard to bring people of different ethnicities and cultures together for the common good.

Elmasri said his faith in the local community and in the United States never wavered.

Elmasri, a Westport, Mass., resident who bought Bahra's Market this spring, said, "People were wonderful and gave me a lot of support."

He said he received phone calls from more than 100 people apologizing for the vandalism, all urging him to keep his spirits up.

"Anyone could have become the victim of a hate crime, just like Elmasri," Roth said. "It could have been me for having long hair, or because someone is white or black, Christian or Jewish.

"These crimes happen when people are too afraid to speak up. You can quickly stop it by joining together and speaking with one voice that hate is wrong."

ŠThe Pawtucket Times 2001

All material designed and copyrighted by MI logo Mirror Image, Inc.
Questions or problems to report about this web site? Contact the Webmaster at