Protesters outside NGA decry NAFTA, GOP health care bill

Protesters rally against NAFTA outside NGA conference (Kim Kalunian/WPRI-TV)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As Vice President Mike Pence and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed state leaders Friday about health care and free trade, respectively, a crowd outside the Rhode Island Convention Center set out to protest those same topics.

Pence and Trudeau were the two biggest names to take the stage on the second day of the National Governors Association’s summer conference. Governors from more than 30 states visited Providence for the three-day event.

Using bullhorns to try and make their voices heard, dozens of protesters gathered in downtown Providence, calling for the replacement of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Governors conference: Road closures in Providence»

The group said something needs to be done to make the agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico more worker-friendly.

The protest also involved health care, specifically Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare and its impacts on Medicaid.

“You can’t just forsake the poor and the elderly and the disabled in this country,” said protester Jodie Goodnough of Pawtucket. “That’s not what this country is about.”

A second group of protesters gathered down the street at Burnside Park.

Protesters rally against GOP health care bill at Burnside Park during NGA meeting (Kim Kalunian/WPRI-TV)

Other topics discussed during the conference Friday included agriculture, manufacturing and workforce development.

The day kicked off with a joint news conference of the Democratic Governors Association where several members, including Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, what the organization called the “damaging impact that the pending Senate health care bill would have on their states.”