Unnoticed by many Rhode Islanders, nearly 100 people turned out at the Roger Williams Memorial Park on North Main Street in Providence for a Rally Against Criminalization: criminalization of people of color, informal work such as hair braiding, immigration status, feminist economics, drug use, people with records, neighborhoods of color and sex work. The event was one of the sharpest and most relevant critiques of the political and social climate in Rhode Island, and presents a direct challenge to a political class that seems interested in criminalizing itself out of every social issue, as evidenced by legislation such as Kristen’s Law or the continued embrace of life sentences for juvenile offenders.
The rally was organized by Bella Robinson from the Rhode Island Chapter of COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), Ria Marchetti from the March for Racial Justice, Sophia Wright, an organizer at DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality), with the support of Annajane Yolken at Protect Families First, the AMOR Alliance, the FANG Collective, Colectivo Sin Fronteras and many more.
There is stuff in the videos below that would be worthy of a series of blog posts, and I am sad that I am unable to unpack all the ideas below and do them justice.
“Today we rally in honor of International Sex Workers Rights Day,” said Sophia Wright, “while recognizing the shared struggles for survival in a society that seeks to criminalize our bodies, our work, our words and our movements.”
“Nine times out of ten, if someone is putting the word ‘illegal’ in front of something it’s because they want to make it corporate,” said emcee Christopher Johnson, a local poet and activist, towards the end of the program. “There’s a corporate reason behind mass incarceration.”
Bella Robinson of COYOTE RI:
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Steven and Daniel from PrYSM (Providence Youth Student Movement):
Michael Galipeau of the Rhode Island User’s Union
Catarina Lorenzo of AMOR (Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance)
David Veliz of Progresso Latino
Monica Huertas of No LNG in PVD!
Terri Wright of DARE’s Tenants and Homeowners Association
Justice Gaines of Jobs With Justice
Vanessa Flores Maldonado led the campaign to pass the Community Safety Act and is now working on its implementation:
MJ Robinson and Aarish Rojiani of Black and Pink
Anthony Hollins, Rhode Island User’s Union
John Prince, Behind the Walls Committee at DARE
Elena Shih, COYOTE RI
Osiris Diensthuber PrYSM QT
Lila Rose, COYOTE RI
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