Mayor Leo T. Fontaine addresses veterans and supporters at a press conference Friday at the Museum of Work & Culture. Fontaine says the city's official response to the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation is that the city will do everything it can to defend the WWI and WWII memorial at Place Jolicoeur. Photo/Joseph Fitzgerald
WOONSOCKET â€” "We're in this to the end."
That was the battle cry and official response from Mayor Leo T. Fontaine and City Solicitor Joseph S. Larisa Jr. to the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has demanded the city remove the WWI and WWII memorial cross at Place Jolicoeur.
"This monument is dedicated to heroes and this is as close to a gravestone as this family will have on U.S. soil. We will defend this monument no matter what," Fontaine told more than 100 cheering veterans and supporters who gathered for a late afternoon press conference Friday at the Woonsocket Museum of Work and Culture.
The monument, which includes a cross, honors four soldiers who were killed in World Wars I and II â€”William Jolicoeur and Louis, Alexander and Henry Gagne. The memorial came under attack earlier this year by the FFRF because it includes a cross, which the organization claims is unconstitutional. The FFRF filed its initial complaint with the city in May at the behest of an unnamed "resident" whom they claimed was offended as they passed by the monument. The city received a second letter from the group in June demanding an official response.
That response came at Friday's press conference.
"The city will continue to defend and protect their monument to honor all veterans and as a memorial to our native sons who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country," Fontaine said in an official response letter dated Friday and sent to FFRF's attorney Rebecca S. Markert.
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