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Swansea man hosts Patriots jersey bonfire protest

A disgruntled Swansea man organized a protest against the New England Patriots after 17 members of the team took a knee during the national anthem before last Sunday's game against the Houston Texans. (WJAR)

A disgruntled Swansea man organized a protest against the New England Patriots after 17 members of the team took a knee during the national anthem before last Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

Mark Shane hosted a bonfire Thursday starting at 7 p.m. at his home at 16 Gardner's Neck Road. He invited people to burn their Patriots jerseys, as well as other gear, in objection of the team's protest.

“I love the New England Patriots. I’m hoping they learned the errors of their way,” Shane told NBC 10 ahead of the rally.

People were split down the middle as to whether or not they support Shane's cause. Some said they are diehard Patriots fans, and others, Shane said, just don't understand.

“If people think for one minute that people are going to choose football over country, they’re wrong," he said.

Sarah Rebello of Swansea was one of about a few dozen people to participate.

“Why can’t we have this small, tiny, little rally that maybe 30 people will be at to burn our jerseys and make our statement,” Rebello said.

Gardner’s Neck Road will be closed in both directions and a shuttle service, which Shane paid for out of his own pocket, will bring people here from the old Sears location at the Swansea Mall.

There was a heavy police presence, with the event expected to last about an hour.

“This is not divisive," said Shane. "It’s about our National Anthem. It’s about respecting our veterans and people standing up for their country.”

They included Everett Marabian, a Korean War veteran from Rhode Island.

“They better standup or the ought to get shipped out,” Marabian said.

Only a handful of jerseys were burned at the event, which lasted about 20 minutes. The rest of the jerseys, Shane said, will be donated to Puerto Rico as part of the hurricane relief efforts.

“I’m a diehard Patriots fan,” Shane said. “I’m willing to forgive if they get up Sunday, get off their knees and respect the country. If they don’t, I’m not willing to forgive.”

The Associated Press reported that 200 or more players across the league knelt, sat, stretched or prayed during the "Star Spangled Banner" in response to the president's call for team owners to fire players who disrespect flag and country by refusing to stand for the anthem.

Colin Kaepernick started the movement last year when he declined to stand for the national anthem to bring attention to racial inequality in America.

For public safety, Swansea police said the following roads were temporarily closed from 5:45 p.m. until about 8 p.m.:

  • Gardner’s Neck Road, North, at Route 6
  • Hortonville Road, South, at Milford Road
  • Main Street, West, at Elm Street

Residents of those streets and people attending a wake at Waring-Sullivan Birchcrest Funeral Home were allowed through, police said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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