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The Uprising! April 6, 2018



“For humanity’s sake, why don’t you give those girls a living wage?”
Diana Prince (1942)

Welcome to The Uprising!

This is your source for a full week’s supply of social justice-y news.

1a. Immigration

On Monday Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and Representative Shelby Maldonado (Democrat, District 56, Central Falls) sat down with DREAMers, undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, to hear their stories. Until recently, DREAMers were protected by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), but President Donald Trump has cavalierly torpedoed that program, leaving the fate of these Americans in doubt.

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Legislation introduced by Maldonado would allow DREAMers to keep their driver’s licenses and work permits in Rhode Island, even after DACA protections end nationally. It is the first legislation of its kind in the United States.

A license is “just a piece of plastic,” said DREAMer Emely Landero, “but it’s really not, to somebody like me. To me getting my license was like, you know, one step closer to living this American Dream that everybody wants to live.”

To these young men and women, DACA means Hope.

“When DACA was introduced I was very hopeful,” said DREMer Monica Socop. “All my efforts were finally going to pay off… So having DACA, it made me have hope.”

Hope is Rhode Island’s State Motto.

1b. Shelby Maldonado‘s bill, H7982, would, “continue the status quo relating to operator’s and chauffeur’s licenses and limited work authorization to approved recipients under the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This act would also provide that the issuance of a Rhode Island operator’s license shall not confer the right to vote in the state of Rhode Island.”

The hearing for the bill was on Wednesday evening in the House Committee on Judiciary. Only two people, representing anti-immigrant groups, spoke against the bill. Those speaking in favor include Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and Lilian Calderon, the young mother who spent a month in ICE detention, under threat of deportation, only to be released in the wake of public pressure.

With bipartisan support (Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence) and Blake Filippi (Republican, District 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) are cosponsors) and a nod from leadership in both the House and the Senate, passage of this legislation looks good, at least for now.

1c. The Census

When the Trump administration decided to put a question on the census asking about immigration status, they had to know it was going to drive down participation among the undocumented. Sam Adler-Bell, writing at The Intercept, makes the case that Trump is “botching” the job, but Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, disagrees. He believes the administration is “deliberately undermining” the 2020 Census.

That’s a big charge, considering that the Census is Constitutionally mandated and that Trump has sworn to uphold the Constitution. Under a normal presidency (whatever that is) undermining the Census might be considered a serious issue, an impeachable offense and a Constitutional crisis.

Under Trump it’s just another day.

At risk if the numbers come back skewed? One of Rhode Island’s two seats in the United States House of Representatives, and billions of dollars in Federal subsidies.

One way the administration is undermining the Census? Ten years ago there were five fully funded tests of the Census questionnaire in across the country. Now there is one, and it’s underfunded. Worse, the test questionnaire is different from the questionnaire that will be used for the official Census.

On Monday, the mayors of Providence, Central Falls and Pawtucket came together to inform people about the importance of the census and to urge people to fill out the mailers they have received.

2. Death with Dignity

On Wednesday evening the House Committee of Health, Education and Welfare heard testimony on Representative Edith Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence)’s legislation, the Lila Manfield Sapinsley Compassionate Care Act, which upon passage would provide a mechanism for terminally ill patients to choose to end their life using physician prescribed drugs. The hearing was ultimately a debate on whether or not one religion (Catholicism/Christianity) should be able to enforce their morality, theology, gods and mythology on all Rhode Islanders.

David Finnegan  a member of the Humanists of Rhode Island, was the last to testify:

“I’m getting older. I’m past the halfway point. I’m healthy, I’ll probably have a long life. But one of the most important things to me is to be able to have choices, to be able to have free will to decide for myself how I’m going to handle any situation in my life. I’m a humanist. I’m an atheist. I believe that this is the only life I have, I see no evidence of another one.

“I therefore would like to have the opportunity to make my own decisions about how I live and how I die. I would like to end with a quote. ‘Enforced uniformity confounds civil and religious liberty and denies the principles off Christianity and civility.’ Roger Williams.

“I think what he was getting at is that for anyone’s beliefs to be meaningful, they must have the free will to act on their own. And I just ask that you give me the opportunity to make my own choices.”

3a. Reproductive Rights

The Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Reproductive Freedom (RIRCRF), an interfaith organization working to protect and expand reproductive rights in Rhode Island, also spoke about religious freedom at the State House this week. They urged the General Assembly to pass the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA)(S2163/H7340) and legislation to protect access to contraception (S2529/H7625).

Camille Brousseau and Sabrina Goncalves, high school students and congregants at Temple Habonim in Barrington, said, “We both want the opportunity to make an educated and meaningful decision regarding our futures. We believe that women are capable of making the right decision and that politicians should not be making the decision for us. We fear for not only ourselves, but for our sisters and friends throughout this state and country, who may not have access to these life-changing decisions, especially women who come from marginalized communities.”

It’s almost like Rhode Islanders don’t want to live in a theocracy or something.

3b.The Woman Project is shocked by Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee’s out of touch statement, which makes us wonder where he has been since January 2017,” said Jocelyn Foye. “Did he miss that a 15-week abortion ban was passed in Mississippi? Did he hear that four pregnant teenagers have been detained by ICE [United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and were denied their right to receive abortion health care? Does he know that there is legislation pending in Ohio that could completely ban abortion? I hope Mr McKee will start paying attention. Reproductive health care is under attack, and women and marginalized communities are already feeling the impact.”

The Woman Project and other groups were reacting to comments McKee made to Scott MacKay here.

3c. The Woman Project Interviews: Farah Diaz-Tello, lawyer, Reproductive Justice advocate

“When abortion first started to be criminalized in the mid-19th Century, it was rare for people to be charged with a crime for ending their own pregnancy. The criminal laws were mostly passed at the behest of the newly-professionalizing medical field to keep midwives and herbalists out of the business of pregnancy, and laws criminalizing self-inducing or “submitting to” an abortion were mostly used to coerce people into naming abortionists. But nowadays, pregnant people have been charged with homicide offenses for ending a pregnancy. Trump’s since-retracted statement that people should face “some form of punishment” for having abortions could become the new reality if states don’t act now to repeal harmful old laws and enact new ones that protect people’s reproductive freedom. Rhode Island’s abortion restrictions are already enjoined and deemed unconstitutional, but leaving them on the books just creates a ticking time bomb for if Mike Pence gets his way and Roe is “consigned to the ash heap of history.”

The Reproductive Health Care Act gets a hearing in House Judiciary next Tuesday:

4. Home Care

The Rhode Island Campaign for Independence and Choice is championing legislation to create an Independent Provider (IP) option, a successful home care model available in several other states including Massachusetts.

The option has saved a billion dollars in neighboring Massachusetts. The legislation would “enable the creation of a public registry of home health aides giving seniors and individuals living with disabilities another choice when accessing long-term care options. The act would also provide that the state would set wage rates and qualification standards for home health aides on the registry. The act would further provide that these home health aides would have the right to choose to form a union through an election.”

“Rhode Island ranks 42nd in the nation in terms of investment in home care,” said sponsor Senator Maryellen Goodwin. “90 percent of older Americans prefer home care. Not only is it more comfortable for seniors, it’s more cost-effective, as we’ve seen in states like Massachusetts.

The coalition includes Senior Agenda Consortium, Rhode Island Working Families Party, Rhode Island Organizing Project, District 1199 SEIU New England, Rhode Island AFL-CIO, Economic Progress Institute and the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Organization of Women (RI NOW).

5. Guns

Governor Gina Raimondo‘s new Gun Safety Working Group has over thirty members and will potentially add more. Two of the members are contributors to Uprise RI: Adah Bryan and Halima Ibrahim. Both women are also terrific public speakers.

6. #metoo

The other high profile study commission launched this week is Representative Teresa Tanzi (Democrat, District 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown)’s long awaited Special Legislative Commission to Study Unlawful Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.

Tanzi hit the ground running with presentations from Cheryl Burrell, director of the Rhode Island Office of Diversity, Equity and Opportunity and Michael Evora, executive director of the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission, who provided a landscape of sorts about the current state of sexual harassment complaints and the procedures in place to deal with them.

One question: Is there a form of sexual harassment that is lawful? Because “unlawful sexual harassment” sounds redundant to me.

7. Elections 2018

Sandra Cano wins special election for State Senate District 8

8. Sinclair Broadcast Group

You’ve probably seen this, which features local WJAR/Channel 10 news host Frank Coletta as one of the many on-air newscasters from across the country reading the same script like eerie, mind controlled propaganda agents:

Over at The Providence Daily Dose, Beth Comery is asking, “So this is how Frank Coletta wants to end his career? As a cynical collaborator in the attempted authoritarian take-down of American democracy? Why not just retire — and speak out.”

Bob Plain, at RI Future talked to the Cardi Brothers, one of WJAR’s biggest advertisers.

“We gave them our opinion as bluntly as we could,” said Peter Cardi to RI Future. “We don’t like it. Our opinion is news is news. We don’t want it slanted one way or another.”

Cardi Brothers have just begun a four year contract to advertise on the station, and may not be able to pull out easily.

“We looked at the whole station and said if we pull them, then we are liable,” said Peter Cardi. “Those guys are sue crazy – not the local guys, the national guys.

The Kent County Resisters have a list of all WJAR Channel 10 advertisers, and are calling for a boycott to pressure the owners of the station to let news be news.

9. Climate

I missed this last week! Sister Mary Pendergast wrote a letter to the Providence Journal about World Water Day. She wites, in part:

[R]ight now, there are three severe threats to our water.

The first: Shall we use an ecologically important forest area as a site for a natural-gas-fired power plant in Burrillville? Fracking in other regions to produce that natural gas can be harmful to their drinking water. Is there a responsibility to stop fracking?

The second: A plan to build a liquefied natural gas processing plant on Narragansett Bay. This seems ludicrous, and more so when one realizes just how polluted the area is. Do we have any moral obligation to the many lower income and people of color who live there? Do we bear any responsibility for the health of the children?

The third: The possibility of allowing offshore drilling for oil and gas on along the East Coast. Should a discharge event occur, it would be catastrophic to the fishing industry, as well as recreation and tourism and ocean life that is already diminished.

10. Transportation

United States Senator Jack Reed (Democrat, Rhode Island) toured the East Side Bus Tunnel, and I got to take my cameras inside. Yes, I was way more excited about this than I should have been.

11. Transgender Rights

Samson Hampton was awarded the 2018 Empowerment Award from the TGI Network, for his direct action efforts to save healthcare, at the first annual Empowerment Breakfast for Transgender Day of Visibility.

“I am a medically complex person that about a year ago was facing losing my insurance that would pay for my life saving medication,” said Hampton, accepting the award. “So I decided to go to Washington DC and participate in direct actions to fight to save health insurance for over ten million Americans. And I got arrested for the first time in my life… That would not be the last time I got arrested. Over the next year I continued to go down [to DC] and participate in direct actions.

“Not only did I protest, yell, get dragged away, (actually rolled away. When I travel I use a wheel chair) but I also sat down and lobbied with politicians and explained to them that if you vote for this bill, you will literally be killing me and other Americans like myself. And some of those politicians still voted for those bills…

12. Wage Discrimination

The Senate Committee on Labor heard Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence)’s bill, S2475, which “would provide protections against employer imposed wage differentials based upon the race or color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age, or country of ancestral origin of the employee.”

Business interests testified against the bill of course, while protesting that they support equal pay for women and minorities, at least in theory.

“We do support women making the same as men,” said Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Elizabeth Suever, smiling. “That’s not what our basis of opposition is today. We’re concerned with a lot of the provisions in this bill and what we think they might do to Rhode Island’s business climate.”

The bill still has strong support from the Senate President:

13. I/DD

The Community Provider Network of Rhode Island (CPNRI) hosted a “Day of Action” for Intellectual/Developmental Disability (I/DD) Awareness Month in the rotunda of the Rhode Island State House on Thursday. CPNRI represents twenty-three private providers of services and supports to more than 3,500 people with developmental disabilities in RI. Over 300 people attended the event, wearing bright green shirts.

CPNRI writes, “We recognize that Rhode Islanders with disabilities and their families – our neighbors – are in jeopardy and depend on all of us to ensure that their basic health and safety needs are met. As a result of chronic underfunding the I/DD system has reached a tipping point. We must make critical investments to prevent the harm of thousands of Rhode Islanders and their families.”

14. Red Bandana Fund

Red Bandana Fund seeking nominees for annual social justice awards

15. Amazon

The Providence Journal got their hands on some parts of Governor Gina Raimondo‘s Amazon bid. The Raimondo administration won’t reveal how much money they offered Amazon, probably because it would pop our eyeballs.

16. Picture of the week:

Urban spelunkers Senator Jack Reed and RIPTA’s interim CEO Amy Pettine.

Is that it? It’s all I got for now. Hope to see you tomorrow at the Rally to Commemorate Dr Martin Luther King!

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.