Connect with us

Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising! November 23, 2018



“We are asking the Congressman to express his support and we are wondering when we can have an answer.”
Lauren Manus, Sunrise RI

Welcome to The Uprising!

A lot of us celebrate Thanksgiving, but many indigenous Americans refer to it as the National Day of Mourning.

Let’s get into this:

1. Sheriff Thomas Hodgson

Can you help us?

Funding for our reporting relies entirely on the generosity of readers like you. Our independence allows us to write stories that hold RI state and local government officials accountable. All of our stories are free and available to everyone. But your support is essential to keeping Steve and Will on the beat, covering the costs of reporting many stories in a single day. If you are able to, please support Uprise RI. Every contribution, big or small is so valuable to us. You provide the motivation and financial support to keep doing what we do. Thank you.

Become a Patron!
Opens in a new tab - you won't lose you place

Around 15 people stood across the street from Sheriff Thomas Hodgson‘s New Bedford home Thursday morning to remind him, on a day many Americans spend with their families and loved ones, that he is responsible for separating families and banishing loved ones to faraway countries. As the elected head of the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO), Hodgson, a Republican, once offered to send prisoners from the prison he manages to the border to help build President Donald Trump‘s proposed boarder wall. He told Congress that elected officials who preside over so-called “Sanctuary Cities” should face arrest.

Organized by The FANG Collective, the protesters targeted Hodgson’s 287(g) agreement with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which deputizes BCSO personnel with the authority to exercise immigration-related functions usually reserved for ICE officers. Barnstable County and Plymouth County, along with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections have 287(g) agreements with ICE.

As protesters chanted, Hodgson came outside to photograph the protesters. When officers from the New Bedford Police Department showed up, they quickly determined that the protest was both peaceful and lawful.

Thomas Hodgson

2a. Sunrise RI

After leading the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to unanimously pass a resolution banning campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies in June of this year, DNC Chair Tom Perez reversed course in August and lead the DNC to essentially repeal the ban, under pressure from unions aligned with the interests of fossil fuel companies.

Perez found himself a target of the Sunrise Movement on Monday, while visiting Brown University. Fifty people, mostly students with Sunrise RI, gathered outside the the Watson Institute to take Perez to task for his reversal, and to insist that the DNC adopt a Green New Deal into the party platform, as laid out in a resolution by Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat, New York) who had, earlier in the week, rallied with the Sunrise Movement in United States House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office. Pelosi is expected to soon be elected majority leader when Democrats take back control of the House in January.

Inside the Watson Institute, 20 students rose together and began singing as Perez started to speak. Then Brown student Nina Wolff Landau addressed Perez directly, saying in part, “We need you to stand up for our generation. We are asking that the DNC reject all contributions from fossil fuel lobbyists and executives and we are asking for the Green New Deal be incorporated into the Democratic Party platform as outlined in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution for a Green New Deal.”

Here’s the vieo from inside the Watson Institute:

Beth Comery at the Providence Daily Dose explains why Perez was at the Watson Institute in the first place.

2b. David Cicilline

It will be interesting to see how United States Representative David Cicilline (Democrat, Rhode Island) reacts to a visit from Sunrise RI to his Pawtucket office on Tuesday morning. As part of a national day of action that saw around 400 separate actions across the country, Sunrise RI visited Cicilline to ask him to “stand with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Justice Democrats, and Sunrise Movement and support the creation of a select committee on a Green New Deal.”

Cicilline has the support of the local building trades, the same unions that helped force the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to reverse course on banning the acceptance of money from executives representing fossil fuel companies. Cicilline has also been working very hard for one of the three number two positions on Nancy Pelosi‘s to be formed House leadership team. It is unknown what effect supporting Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s Green new Deal would have on Cicilline’s standing with Pelosi, since Ocasio-Cortez occupied Pelosi’s office in solidarity with the Sunrise Movement.

Cicilline’s District Director Chistopher Bizzacco, who met with Sunrise RI in Cicilline’s stead, said that the Representative was “passionate” about doing something about the climate crisis.

“When we’re ‘passionate’ about something we act on it,” said Nicole Lena. “We know the science. It’s time to take action. So if [Cicilline] wants to say he’s passionate, he should demonstrate that through his actions.”

“This is a really critical moment,” said Brown University student Lauren Manus. “To have as much support from Congress as possible. To have a lot of traction and support… We are asking the Congressman to express his support and we are wondering when we can have an answer.”

I think we all are.

3a. Transgender Day of Remembrance

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza signed a proclamation on Tuesday declaring November 20, 2018 as the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is an international movement commemorating and honoring the lives of transgender and gender expansive individuals lost to violence and the injustices faced by transgender and gender expansive communities.

Observed every year on November 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance was sparked by the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts which happened 20 years ago this month. The Transgender Day of Remembrance was then established in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender activist, in memory of Rita Hester.

At a short ceremony held inside Providence City Hall, the mayor was joined by members of the Providence Human Relations Commission (PHRC), TGI Network President Ethan Huckel, TGI Network Board Member Kayla Powell, MX Trans Rhode Island 2018 Payton James, local comedian and activist Nika Lomazzo and Support Group Leader with Youth Pride RI Lukas Hawthrone.

Various reports show that anti-transgender violence in the United States has been rising in recent years. According to the Human Rights Campaign, in 2017 advocates tracked at least 29 deaths of transgender people in the country due to fatal violence. This made it the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender expansive individuals, with the majority of deadly attacks being against women of color. Numbers for transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means in 2018 are trending to match that of 2017.

What can we do to help end this terrible violence?

“What can you do? If you’re sitting in this room and you’re not transgender, if you’re a cisgender person, what can you do?” said TGI Network Board Member Kayla Powell. “First of all, welcome transgender people into your community. It’s our community after all, we’re already a part of it. If you’re hiring, hire transgender people. We can do all of the same things. we have all of the same skills. If you’re a parent, if you’re a teacher, push for policies that keep transgender youth in school because, this is something that isn’t talked about, [but] bullying and harassment and kids being forced into home schooling and kids not getting the education that they need to succeed is a huge problem. Especially for transgender youth of color. So push for that. If you work in law enforcement, fight for training. Fight for sound policies and fight to give meaning to the oath you swore to protect and serve. I know that’s what you want to do.”

3b. Transgender Day of Remembrance Service

Right after Mayor Jorge Elorza’s announcement at City Hall, Beneficent Church hosted a service in memory of the transgender people, mostly women of color, who were murdered over the last year.

“This is not the first time we have gathered for a service like this, said Reverend Gwendolyn Howard, addressing the nearly 100 people gathered. “And I’m sure, and I fear, it will not be the last. As long as violence continues, we will gather. We will say the names of those we have lost. We will light candles. We will make sure that the stories of people in our community get told. That’s why we gather, that is why we are here.”

Near the end of the service, Reverend Howard said,

“We grieve the loss of any of us who faced discrimination, any of us whose family or friends have turned away. We especially grieve, for those who lost their lives…

“Yet we have reasons to give thanks also. We are thankful for the examples of those who have been lost to violence. Their insistence on living the truth of their lives even in the face of the gravest danger, teaches us what heroism really is…”

4. Invenergy

Bad news for fans of fracked gas and diesel oil: ISO New England successfully cancelled Invenergy‘s contract to provide electricity for our region three years hence, because ISO believes the company can’t be ready by the due date, and because the power that this proposed power plant might provide if built just isn’t needed to keep the lights on, despite the spin from supporters like the Providence Journal‘s Ed Achorn.

Meanwhile, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer keeps on punching, hitting the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) with three motions on Monday. Elmer tells me:

“None of these motions will alone decide the case. But each of these motions contributes to the broader case that CLF is making: Invenergy’s plant is not needed; the ISO’s decision to terminate Invenergy’s CSO has huge, far-ranging implications including on matters like ratepayer impacts and air emissions; amazingly, Invenergy keeps lying to regulators, even after being caught at it repeatedly; and Invenergy’s “expert” witness is not so expert at all.

“Lawyers like to say, ‘A brick is not a wall.’ By this, we mean that each component part may be small, but together they add up to a larger whole. CLF is putting together a coherent case that the plant is not needed and, if built, would cause unacceptable environmental harm. Each of these motions are bricks that we are using to build the larger wall.”

5a. Nicholas Mattiello

The 21 Democratic Representatives opposing Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) for Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, have a name, the Reform Caucus. But they also seem to have changed up their objectives a bit. In a press release they say:

The Reform Caucus is committed to changing the way business is conducted at the State House. That can only happen with changes to the House Rules so there’s a more democratic process which respects all 74 elected Representatives and ensures the diverse needs of all constituents served. The Reform Caucus seeks greater transparency in government such as not suspending rules and posting bills for 48 hours for the public (and Representatives) to view before votes are taken.

The Rhode Island Democratic Party Women’s Caucus has come out in strong support of the Reform Caucus, writing:

“…this is about reforming the rules of the House so that legislative proposals move through the process from proposal to the floor in a manner that is fair, comprehensible, and public. And a chamber in which the schedule offers time for deliberation and debate, with no last-minute changes, no backroom deals and no rush to the finish line. Members must know what they’re voting on, have time to touch base with their constituents, and have time to consider their vote.

“This is about fostering an environment in which all members are guided by their convictions and their constituents’ interests without fear of retribution should take a position contrary to the Speaker’s. This is about creating a workplace environment in which claims of sexual harassment are handled quickly and by a human resources professional, and a legislative chamber in which the leadership structure has a place for the diverse voices of the Democratic Party.”

5b. Christopher Blazejewski

One “progressive” Democrat absent from the list of members making up the Reform Caucus is Christopher Blazejewski (Democrat, District 2, Providence), who serves as Deputy Minority Whip as part of Mattiello’s leadership team. As part of that team, Blazejewski is intimately involved in the decisions made by the Speaker, who is, by his own admission, very collaborative and constantly seeking the input of his leadership team and his fellow Representatives before making decisions.

Last Saturday Saturday over a dozen people canvassed the neighborhoods Blazejewski represents to ask his supporters to reach out and encourage him to not vote for Representative Nicholas Mattiello as Speaker of the House, a position Mattiello has held for over two full terms with Blazejewski’s support.

“He’s a good guy and he’s done a lot of good stuff and he’s voted on a lot of issues that have been important to me and he’s listened to me,” said Blazejewski constituent Patricia Brennan. “I want him to know that people who support him, want him to support this.”

Brennan was inspired to call Blazejewski from her door:


I never intended to become part of the news this week, but Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA) Chair Wayne Kezirian had other plans. As I set up my camera I was told by James Pereira, Chief Security Officer at RIPTA, “I’m going to need you to gather up your stuff and come out into the hallway.”

Pereira, I later learned, was acting under the instruction of Kezirian.

When I refused to stop running my camera, Pereira turned my camera to the wall.

Here’s the thing: Under Rhode Island State Law your right to record open, public meetings is protected. The Open Meetings Act (AMA) is a vital piece of legislation that protects all of us from government over reach, especially the overreach of state boards and councils filled with gubernatorial appointees, not elected officials. There is really no other way to hold these board- and council-members accountable for their actions.

I am really grateful to the Rhode Island ACLU for immediately coming to my defense on this.

You can read my account of the RIPTA meeting here.

You can read the ACLU’s response to what happened here.

Kevin Andrade at the Providence Journal covered what happened here.

Here’s a handy guide to the Open Meetings Act, courtesy of the Rhode Island ACLU.

7. Hunger in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank has released their 2018 Status Report on Hunger in Rhode Island. Among the reports findings:

  • Hunger is more prevalent in Rhode Island than it was 10 years ago.
  • Food insecurity affects one in eight Rhode Island households.
  • Inflation outpaces wage growth for many workers.
  • Demand for food assistance remains high throughout the Food Bank’s statewide network of member agencies, serving 53,000 people each month.

8. Marijuana in Rhode Island

“New England’s first regulated marijuana market for adults is now up and running in Massachusetts,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a member of the Regulate Rhode Island coalition. “It’s only a matter of time before more states in the region follow its lead. Rhode Islanders are ready to move forward with a similar system, and it’s time for Rhode Island’s legislative leaders to allow a vote on the issue. If lawmakers continue to delay, the state will essentially forfeit significant economic opportunities to neighboring states like Massachusetts, including substantial tax revenue and good jobs.”

Unfortunately, our state’s leaders, Governor Gina Raimondo, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence) have reservations about the policy, meaning millions of dollars in state revenue will be crossing the border each year until they commit.

9. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell

Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Democrat, District 5, Providence), who will be starting her second term in January, is profiled in Jamaica Global.

“I am glad I ran and won,” said Ranglin-Vassell. “I am a fighter and will continue fighting to save my students and to help improve the lives of all Rhode Islanders.”

10. Elaine Morgan

State Senator Elaine Morgan (Republican, District 34, Exeter Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich) has it in for a Westerly area restaurant called Amigos Taqueria Y Tequila says Jennifer Douglas, who ran and lost as a Democrat against Morgan in the last election. On Facebook Douglas relates:

“Senator Morgan took offense to this restaurant offering T Shirts for sale that said ’86/45′ which is a reference to removing our current President from office. Elaine recently posted on her personal Facebook page claiming that the store owner, by using the term ’86,’ wanted to murder the president and she called for a boycott of this restaurant. As a result the owner has been a victim of targeted harassment since the posting.”

11. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

Two new interviews this week:

12. Pascoag Fire District

From Sandy Seone at Burrillville Now:

“The Rhode Island Ethics Commission is looking at two complaints against Pascoag Fire Commissioner Linda Carter submitted by two different residents over the course of the year.

“The latest, submitted Oct. 22 by Stephanie Sloman, notes that Carter recently voted to appoint her personal attorney Albin Moser of Providence, to represent the district itself at the board’s Sept. 17 meeting.

“Concern over the hiring of the attorney, who is currently representing Carter in an Ethics Complaint submitted back in May by Gregory McCutcheon, was expressed by several residents at the fire board’s meeting this week.

“’I’m concerned that he still represents an individual board member and represents the board and the district as a whole,’ said Jennifer Spaziano Richards, a firefighter/EMT with Hose Company 2. ‘You can’t be both. You need to have  an attorney whose sole purpose is for the district.'”

13. Harm Reduction

Over at ConvergenceRI, Ian Knowles looks at the new draft strategic plan of the Governor’s Task Force on Overdose Prevention and Intervention which “cites harm reduction development as a continuing strategy.”

14. Georgia Hollister Isman

Ian Donnis, Scott McKay and Maureen Moakley interview the state director for the Rhode Island Working Families PartyGeorgia Hollister Isman.

Here’s the interview

Here’s the Bonus Q & A

“We’re going to be working on the Fair Pay Bill that we worked on last session, equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage substantially, and I also think that this is a year where we have a real chance of passing legislation around a woman’s right to choose,” said Hollister Isman.

15. Picture of the week:

UpriseRI is entirely supported by donations and advertising. Every little bit helps:

Become a Patron!

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.