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The Uprising, May 24, 2018



So young, loaded gun
Oblivious to what the trigger does
Will ya wake up, never gonna make up
Got ammunition on a mission gonna shoot you down
Man that’s so young, that’s so young…
Portugal. The Man

Welcome to The Uprising!, your weekly download of Rhode Island progressive activist news.

Lots of big stuff happened that I didn’t get a chance to cover, at least not directly. Deepwater Wind is building 400-megawatts of wind energy for the state; the plan to charge the poorest and most vulnerable co-pays on their Medicaid has been abandoned; and the red flag bill has been passed by the Senate, but needs to be re-ratified by the House before the Governor signs it.

But lots of stuff happened that I did cover, so let’s dive in:

1. Biomass Incineration

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Legislation to add the burning of biomass to the sources of clean energy listed in Rhode Island’s net metering act was slithering towards passage, seemingly lubricated by thousands of dollars in donations to influential elected leaders.

John Marion, of Common Cause Rhode Island, said, “What we are seeing is a classic case of what economists call rent-seeking,” said Marion at a rally outside the State House on Wednesday. “This is legislation, introduced at the behest of a single developer, who will profit by adding biomass to the list of sources available for net metering, a program established to promote green technologies.”

The Associated Press writes that, “House Spokesman Larry Berman called the quid-pro-quo allegation ‘ridiculous.'”

The allegations of pay-to-play, plus the strong, last ditch advocacy of a stunned environmental community, seems to have at least slowed the bill’s passage down. Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island Matt Brown called the bill “a failure of democracy” which forced incumbent Governor Gina Raimondo to say, through her spokesman David Ortiz, that “there’s significant concern in the environmental community about biomass, and so the Governor has concerns. She has to learn more about this bill but at the outset it’s clear there are questions and concerns that have to be addressed.”

How bad can biomass incineration be?

The very cleanest biomass facilities, said Jay McCaffrey, New England clean energy advocate for the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI), “Will emit 150 percent of the nitrogen oxides, 600 percent of the volatile organic compounds, 190 percent of the particulate matter, and 125 percent of the carbon monoxide of a coal plant.”

Okay. Pretty bad I guess.

2a. Guns, Guns, Guns

“How much pain and loss must we go through before our elected officials make and implement hard decisions to protect our children?” asks Linda Finn, in response to the Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas. Finn is the president of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV).

Finn was just one of many in Rhode island who reacted to the shooting in Santa Fe, but the national impact of that shooting seems strangely muted when compared to the outrage and advocacy of the Parkland, Florida students.

“All I can really say is that it’s not the gun that shot those people, it’s the one behind it,” said Santa Fe student Dylan Mittelsted, as quoted by Carolyn Kormann in The New Yorker.

“Many Santa Fe High School students have made similar comments,” writes Kormann.

2b. Peace Walk

In an event that was planned before the latest shooting took place, the Rhode Island Volunteers for Moms Demand Action teamed up with the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence on Saturday for the second of their monthly peace walks. Over 40 people walked through the rain, carrying signs and picking up trash to “express solidarity with impacted communities and be a force for change, from violence to peace.”

2c. School Resource Officers

The Senate is parsing at least three bills to put police officers in every school in Rhode Island, at an estimated cost of $28 million annually. Some people believe that money could be spent more wisely, and to greater effect:

“We don’t have social and mental health workers in our schools,” said Aleita Cook, a Junior at Providence Career and Technical Academy (PCTA) and a member of the Providence Student Union (PSU) in testimony before the Senate Committee on Education. “We only have guidance counselors and guidance counselors are useful to help with colleges and scholarships, not really [someone] to go to to talk about how we feel and our lives outside off school.”

Cook continued, “At my school, when you have one nurse, and sometimes around fourth period our nurse goes on break, and I need the nurse because I need menstrual products or ice or anything, nine times out of ten I have to go to the office and the office don’t supply those things. And I’m pretty sure a police officer can’t supply those things to students. And we can’t go to those police officers if we want to talk because I don’t feel like that’s what their jobs are.”

2d. Bishop Thomas Tobin

“I am writing at this time to offer my personal support for the efforts of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence to enact reasonable and common sense gun control legislation here in Rhode Island,” writes Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. “I have publicly supported these legislative efforts on a number of occasions in the past. For example, a few years ago I wrote, ‘The right to own guns in not an absolute right. As a personal right it always has to be balanced with the legitimate rights of other people and with protecting the common good.’”

“Traditional” Democrats, as defined by Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena, are pro-life, pro-guns, pro-business, anti-regulation, patriotic and mostly Catholic. Will ‘traditional” Democratic legislators who listen to the Bishop when it comes to issues such as reproductive rights pay attention when the issue is gun safety?

Here’s a case study, of sorts;

2e. A Sacrosanct Amendment

“It is my personal belief that the Second Amendment is indeed a sacrosanct amendment,” said “traditional” Democrat Senator Frank Lombardi (Democrat, District 26, Cranston) when debating the merits of the red flag bill on the Senate floor before the bill was passed. “It’s part of our Bill of Rights.”

Lombardi has a long tradition of treating the Bill of Rights like a buffet, where you take what you like and leave the rest behind. When he had the opportunity to speak up for the First Amendment, back in 2011, he wore “three hats” – lawyer, school committee member and “practicing Catholic.”

“Practicing Catholic” was the preferred hat then.

In 2011 Frank Lombardi was on the Cranston School Board, defending a prayer banner on the wall of Cranston East High School, a banner that was ruled unconstitutional, a banner that violated the First Amendment. My niece, Jessica Ahlquist, with the help of the Rhode Island ACLU, won her case, and the banner was ordered to be removed. Lombardi was one of the people on the school committee who voted to appeal the court ruling, even though the cash strapped Cranston school system was already out thousands of dollars trying to defend the prayer banner.

2f. Red Flag Law and Bump Stock ban

Here’s the video off the Red Flag Law passing the Senate. The legislation heads back to the House because the Senate altered some of the language, but if, as expected, the House passes the bill, the Governor has committed to signing it.

3a. 2018 Election

Jason Roias is running for Providence City Council for the seat currently occupied by Nicholas Narducci, who is finishing up his third term in office. Roias, 22-years old, made his announcement for his campaign in Ward 4 at Hopkins Square, a small park in the North End of Providence.

3b. Sandra Cano endorsed

Pawtucket resident Karen Alzate today declared her candidacy for State Representative District 60, challenging “traditional” Democrat David Coughlin.

“I am running for State Representative because I love Pawtucket,” said Alzate. “We need a strong new voice at the State House to fight for education, affordable housing, small businesses and for all families who come to Pawtucket to pursue the American Dream.”

3c. Steven Cianci

National news was made when Steven Cianci, a second cousin of the late Mayor Buddy Cianci, decided to run against Jo Ann Ryan‘s Providence City Council seat. Here’s a link to the Associated Press piece in the Washington Post.

No one should be judged by the actions of their second cousin.

4. A crime against humanity:

5. What is the argument for supporting Raimondo in the primary?

“I have a challenge for my fellow Democrats (and unaffiliated voters) planning to cast a ballot for Raimondo over Matt Brown in the September primary,” says Capri Catanzaro, the political director of the Progressive Democrats of Rhode Island. “Say why.”

Catanzaro’s oped has led to a lively debate both in the comments accompanying her piece and in the larger community of progressives and unaffiliated voters in Rhode Island.

Though obviously much of the following was planned well in advance of Catanzaro’s piece and Matt Brown’s announcement to run for Governor of Rhode island, Raimondo may be responding to the thoughts behind the oped through her actions:

5a. Medicaid

“Raimondo’s legacy will be devastating Medicaid cuts,” wrote Catanzaro on May 21. Two days later, just ahead of an Economic Progress Institute (EPI) rally and press event in defense of Medicaid, Governor Raimondo removed the Medicaid co-pays, which targeted the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Rhode Island, from her budget. The EPI released a report, Medicaid Matters in Rhode Island 2018, that provides information about the breadth and scope of the Medicaid program in the Ocean State.

“Medicaid matters to me,” said Vincent Dejesus, a Rhode Island resident disabled after brain tumor surgery twenty years ago, “because it gives me the ability to live in my community and provides the assistance I need to be independent. Without Medicaid my quality of life would be very different. I currently work two days a week, but my biggest goal is to find a full time job.”

5b. I/DD

The next day, Raimondo told a crowd of well over 1000 people with disabilities, their family members, friends, and direct care workers crowded into the Rhode Island State House to demand the restoration of the $18 million cut from Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) services that the cuts won’t be happening.

“I’m here to tell you that we’re going to do the right thing, we’re going to put the $18 million there, we’re going to make sure that resources are there in order to protect the system and also help us to make the system more stable, and transform the system,” said Raimondo. “And we’re also going to continue with you, for a long time, to make sure we raise the wages of people who do this work.”

5c. Reproductive rights

Raimondo, “enacted abortion restrictions in Rhode Island after only 6 months in elected office and is listed as “mixed-choice” by NARAL,” wrote Cantanzaro.

On Wednesday Raimondo joined with The Woman Project and RI NOW (Rhode Island National Organization for Women at Sprout CoWorking to make calls for legislation currently working its way through the General Assembly related to contraception (H7625), equal pay, and the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA)(S2163/H7340).

This was a powerful symbol of her commitment to reproductive rights.

Gina Raimondo, Hilary Levey Friedman

5d. Wind power

“…pushing dirty fossil fuel power plants in Burrillville and South Providence are undeniably right-wing initiatives, not groundwork for incrementalist Democratic change,” wrote Catanzaro on Monday.

Two days later:

Building on her commitment to a clean, affordable and reliable energy future, Governor Gina Raimondo announced today that Rhode Island has selected Deepwater Wind, the Rhode Island-based clean energy developer, to construct a new, 400-megawatt offshore wind farm. The Revolution Wind project–more than ten times the size of the Block Island Wind Farm–was selected through a competitive offshore wind procurement process in collaboration with Massachusetts.

“Rhode Island made history when we built the first offshore wind farm in the United States,” said Governor Gina Raimondo. “Today, we are doing it again. This new, large-scale offshore wind project will bring clean and low-cost power to Rhode Islanders and further diversify our energy resources–all while adding good-paying jobs to our growing economy.”

6. Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

Week two of the Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival tackled the linked issues of systemic racism and poverty. As they did the week before, activists marched from the Gloria Dei Evangelical Lutheran Church to the Rhode Island State House chanting and singing songs.

Halima Ibrahim, a 10th grader at the Islamic school of Rhode Island and a youth representative from Rhode Island Womxn’s Action Initiative, who delivered a knock-out speech/poem at the March for Our Lives, delivered an amazing poem on being Muslim in America today.

It’s a must watch:

Week 3 of the Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will be on Tuesday, May 29th at 2pm on the State House lawn (due to Memorial Day being on that Monday)  and will be on the subject of The War Economy: Militarism and the Proliferation of Gun Violence.

7. Speaking of War:

The Rhode Island Anti-War Committee (RIAC) hosted a program at the Rochambeau Public Library in Providence Thursday evening featuring talks by two veterans critical of United States military interventions and the military/industrial complex.

You can see video of the speakers here.

8a. Morgan Stanley

Early Thursday morning a group of activists disrupted Morgan Stanley‘s annual shareholder meeting by blocking vehicle access at both entrances to their corporate campus in Purchase, New York… At the main entrance of the facility, a group deployed banners, cones and forest debris to block the road. Three people were arrested after refusing to leave the site. The rear entrance was blockaded after a gate was barricaded shut. The action was organized by The FANG Collective, a direct action and community organizing group based in the Northeast.

Morgan Stanley is … the lead financier of Invenergy, an energy company that is trying to build a series of fracked-gas power plants, including in Burrillville, Rhode Island.

“Morgan Stanley says that they are a socially responsible company, and boasts about their commitment to sustainability,” said Nick Katkevich of The FANG Colleective. “But at the same time they are funding some of the most violent and vicious corporations on the planet. It’s time for Morgan Stanley to back up their words with actions and end their financing of fossil fuel projects.”

Three people were arrested.

8b. Invenergy

Sandy Seoane at Burrillville Now reports that Invenergy, the company trying to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the north west forests of Rhode Island has “an n option to purchase 89 acres of land along Round Top Road.”

“The agreement gives the company, which has applied to build a 1,000 megawatt power plant in the area, exclusive right to purchase the privately-owned land from Pascoag resident Debra Alles,” writes Seoane.

8c. Climate Anxiety Counseling

Kate Schapira‘s notes from her interactions with people at her Climate Anxiety Booth at the Sustain PVD Fair.

Fields Point cannot happen, the power plant [in Burrillville] cannot happen—and the privatization of water.

“This is so pressing, so urgent, I feel it in my bones. The things I connected with people over, I almost feel this disconnect from now. They’re like, ‘Oh, these conversations are depressing. We’re fine.’ But we’re not fine. I want to not just talk about the problems, I wanna talk about the solutions, but people are like, ‘I have my own things to protect.’

9. The Woman Project

TWP Interviews: Ally Coll Steele, President & Cofounder of The Purple Campaign

“Our mission is to end workplace sexual harassment, and we are doing that by implementing stronger corporate policies, establishing better laws, and empowering people within their own workplaces and communities,” said Ally Cole Steele. “On the employer side, we are building relationships with industry leaders, working with companies to review their internal policies and practices, and developing effective training and educational programs for business leaders and employees. On the public policy front, we are organizing action campaigns and asking lawmakers to establish better laws and policies to address workplace sexual harassment, and empowering people to make their voices heard on this topic in upcoming elections.”


Uprise RI is proud to have published Mattheson’s piece, “Women’s Right to Choose: Time to replace the sitting ducks” which talks about the best strategies for protecting and enhancing choice this upcoming election season.

Here’s an excerpt:

“We need to restructure by replacing those holding our representative seats with a completely different crowd.

“Researchers have found that in states where there are more than ⅓ Democratic women holding seats, it is seven times more likely that there will be liberal abortion policy.

“It is no secret that Democratic women are leading the revolution that we see today. They are at the forefront of movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up. They are organizing marches, starting grassroots organizations in their communities, and they are running for office.

“The time, effort, and money that we spend trying to change policy will be best used when directed at Democratic women’s campaigns. Democratic women are the ones who are going to be the front runners of change. If we wish to see change, permanent change, in abortion policy, then we must work to replace our current representatives with Democratic women.”

11. Georgia Hollister Isman

Some of Mattheson’s ideas were echoed in the talk Georgia Hollister Isman, state director of Rhode Island Working Families, gave at last Sunday’s Resist Hate Rhode Island meeting.

“In order to resist hate we need to win some elections,” said Hollister Isman. It should be noted that virtually every candidate Hollister Isman named, aside from Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence), who is running for Lieutenant Governor, is a woman.

“If you want to make a difference in a campaign,” said Hollister Isman, “Use your time on a weekend to knock on doors for one of these candidates. That’s an incredibly valuable investment any of you could make. Pick one, or two or three places this year where you think the person who is running will make a great addition to the legislature and spend some time there this summer. That will make an enormous difference and create a legislature that better represents our values and sees them as more important.”

12. Mario Monteiro

“My name is Mario Monteiro,” said a letter I recently received. “I am a juvenile lifer serving time at the ACI.”

Monteiro is serving a life sentence, without the possibility of parole, for a murder he committed as a gang member at the age of 17 in 2001. He wrote to me after I wrote about and testified on a bill that would allow for the possibility of parole for those serving life in prison for crimes committed as juveniles.

“I believe that there is a lack of knowledge at the State House, and in the general public as to how this legislation will work when it’s passed (it will only give a chance at parole, no guarantees) and who would be given a chance (not Craig Price,)” wrote Monteiro. “When youth offenders are mentioned, such as myself, the focus is only on our worst mistake. I believe it is important to acknowledge the wrongdoing, but it may be just as important to know who I was before my crime, and who I’ve become since.”

Monteiro lost his mother when he was ten, his father when he was eleven. Monteiro was left in the “care” of a friend of his father, who exposed the boy to years of physical abuse and neglect.

“He was forced to learn how to package drugs, cut them up, deliver them, how to hold them in his hand, hold it under his tongue, at the ages of 11, 12 and 13 years old,” Monteiro’s Aunt, Dee Jensen told the House Judiciary Committee. “If he didn’t comply, if he didn’t do what they asked him to do, he was beat with a plastic baseball bat.”

In school Monteiro joined a gang, and two years later he was convicted of murder. “He murdered and innocent bystander who was sitting on a porch,” said Jensen. “By waving a gun around and acting like a crazy gang thug, 16 year-old person.”

In his 16 years of prison, Monteiro has nearly completed his associate’s degree. He reads constantly.

“Mario and people like him deserve to have the hope that someday they will have an adult life in society,” said Jensen. “This bill will allow him to be assessed by the skillful people on the parole board at the ACI, as any other inmate, to determine whether or not he has been rehabilitated.”

13. Sam Bell

“I do believe that we need to resist the Trump agenda here in Rhode Island and that does mean we have to stand up to the political machine that has been running our state and implementing these Trump policies,” said said Sam Bell, who received the endorsement of Indivisible Rhode Island for his race in Rhode Island State Senate District 5 in Providence.

When Bell talks about the Trump agenda, he is talking about state level policies, instituted by Democrats, that mirror the extremist policies of Trump at the national level.

13b. Indivisible Rhode Island

Despite what Indivisible says, Bell did not receive the “first ever” endorsement from Indivisible Rhode Island. Senators Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown) and Sandra Cano (Democrat, District 8, Pawtucket) were endorsed in special elections.

14. Rhode Island Democratic Platform Committee

The fourth meeting of the Rhode Island Democratic Platform Committee was held in South Kingstown (I erroneously reported the city as North Kingstown at the link above because I am apparently geographically challenged.)

The debate over whether the party should tilt towards the “traditionalists” or the “progressives” was somewhat muted as the discussion concerned itself with what, exactly a platform is and what, exactly, is the function of a platform. Is the platform a litmus test? A pledge? Binding? Non-binding? Unifying? Aspirational?

“To me, the platform is what our party stands on and it is what we, as Democrats, stand for,” said Representative Teresa Tanzi (Democrat, District 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown). “So this document doesn’t have to be a unifying document, in fact. In my opinion it’s not meant to be a unifying document. A platform is a defining document, not a unifying one. it’s what makes us not Republican.”

On the other hand:

“I’ve been reluctant to join the Democratic Party mostly because of some of the things [Rhode Island Democratic Party (RIDP) executive director Kevin Olasanoye] said earlier, abut there being no real commitment to following the tenets of this document,” South Kingstown Town Council Member Liz Gledhill (Independent). “My reluctance to commit to a party, when you talk about ‘some people believe some things and some people don’t,’ what’s the point of choosing then? I want a party that has a backbone, that sticks to their beliefs.”

The RIDP is building a document that says, “This is what the most of us agree on,” said Olasanoye.

15. DACA

The Rhode Island Senate passed legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (Democrat, District 29, Warwick) that would continue to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors.

“DACA recipients have made meaningful contributions to the state’s economy, forming businesses and participating in education,” said McCaffrey. “This legislation will guarantee that state law regarding driver’s licenses and work authorization will continue to apply to them, no matter how federal deliberations on the issue play out.”

16. Trans panic

The Rhode Island House of Representatives today approved legislation to prevent the use of the “gay or trans panic” defense in cases where a transgender or homosexual person has been murdered or assaulted.

“I consider this common-sense legislation,” said Representative Kenneth Marshall (Democrat, District 68, Bristol, Warren). “A victim is a victim, and no victim’s life is worth less than another’s because of his or her gender identity or sexuality. The American Bar Association, which includes defense attorneys, has urged states to change laws to delegitimize this defense, and Rhode Island should join those states that do not allow it to be used to warp justice.”

17. United States Supreme Court

Our new conservative Supreme Court delivered a gift to corporate America at the expense of worker’s rights on Monday. Read about the 5-4 decision in Epic Systems Corp. v Lewis here.

Here’s an excerpt:

“For over eighty years, the National Labor Relations Act has guaranteed workers’ right to stand together for ‘mutual aid and protection’ when seeking to improve their wages and working conditions. However, today’s decision clears the way for employers to require workers to waive that right as a condition of employment.

“The use of mandatory arbitration and collective and class action waivers—under which workers are forced to handle workplace disputes as individuals through arbitration, rather than being able to resolve these matters together in court—makes it more difficult for workers to enforce their rights.”

“This decision is a big win for corporate special interests and a major loss for working people,” said United States representative David Cicilline (Democrat, Rhode Island). “Millions of Americans are finding it harder than ever to get ahead. This decision will make it even more difficult by denying working people their day in court. It’s more proof that the system is rigged against working men and women. If the Court won’t protect the middle class, Congress must.”

18. Picture of the Week:

Gina Raimondo phone banking with RI NOW

See you all next week.

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.