The Uprising! May 25, 2019

Tammy Brown outside Maria's Cucina
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“They say they are pro-life but do not believe the world is dying. They ignore the vanishing landscape as they continue to deregulate businesses so that they are able to regulate our bodies so they can exploit what we have left.

“That’s because they don’t care about life.”

Dionitxel, a senior at Classical High School

Welcome to a late edition of The Uprising!

So… much… stuff…

1a. Reproductive Rights Rally #1

In response to the Rhode Island State Senate Judiciary Committee failing to pass a bill to the Senate floor that would codify the protections into state law last week, Rhode Island was the site of three separate pro-choice rallies this week, each one planned and executed by different people, targeting different people, and each one surprisingly large and successful.

On Tuesday, Brianna Filippi (no relation to State Representative Blake Filippi) organized a protest outside the Rhode Island State House that brought about 100 people out. This was at noon, on a workday. The national protest was in response to Alabama‘s State Legislature banning abortion in virtually all cases.

Though Filippi’s protest was organized in concert with the national protests, the issue resonates strongly in Rhode Island. The day that Alabama passed their restrictive abortion law was the same day the Rhode Island State Senate killed the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA), a bill designed to codify the federal abortion protections of Roe v Wade into Rhode Island State Law. Though that bill was killed, the Reproductive Privacy Act (RPA) the House version of the same bill, is still in play in the Senate.

“We don’t want to just show solidarity for the other states,” said Filippi. “That is super, super important, but this is also going on in our state. We really want to get the Reproductive [Privacy Act] passed through the Senate, we want to get it to the [Senate] floor. Just because we are a ‘blue’ state, just because we have a Democratic governor that doesn’t mean it’s not happening here.”

1b. Governor Gina Raimondo

Governor Raimondo has taken some criticism from choice advocates for her seeming disinterest in the Senate’s dithering on protecting abortion rights. On the day of the Senate Judiciary vote, Raimondo seemed unaware of what was going on:

In response to The Womxn Project‘s calls that the Governor should be doing more, Raimondo told the Providence Journal last Friday that “Everyone has their opinion of what I should or shouldn’t do. In this one, I have been crystal clear there from the beginning. I thank them. I understand they are frustrated, and I think we have to just focus on the Senate.”

Raimondo doubled down on this when she went on WGBH radio in Boston, saying that the criticism she is receiving for her inaction on reproductive rights legislation is “[b]ecause they’re frustrated. And I can see why they’re frustrated… I came out, first week in January and said that this is the session to get it done. The House then passed a bill, pretty swiftly, and then it kind of bobbled around the Rhode Island Senate for around five months. And it has been a frustrating process. And so those advocates are frustrated.

“But they ought to be frustrated with the Senate and they should focus on the Senate, and see if they can get something done.”

Raimondo scored a primary endorsement from Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island (PPV!RI).”

“Governor Raimondo is committed to passing the Reproductive Health Care Act and protecting the reproductive freedom of Rhode Islanders, including access to safe, legal abortion, from the attacks by President Trump and his allies in Congress,” wrote Planned Parenthood in their endorsement.

“We need Governor Raimondo’s strong leadership. The four Democrats who control the Rhode Island General Assembly, all men, refuse to protect reproductive freedom, including access to safe, legal abortion,” said Amanda Skinner, the CEO of PPV!RI. “Their refusal to act in the 2018 General Assembly session place them closer to Donald Trump than to the platform of the Democratic Party they lead.”

It’s a weird world when Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello a conservative Democrat who received an endorsement from Rhode island Right to Life, has a better track record on reproductive rights than the Governor endorsed by Planned Parenthood. Both Gloria Steinem and a former NARAL president backed Raimondo’s challenger Matt Brown in the primary.

1c. Reproductive Right Rally #2

On Thursday nearly fifty high school students, mostly young women, rallied outside and inside the Rhode Island State House. This rally, called an “emergency press conference” was organized by Audrey O’Donnell, a junior at Met High School and intern at Planned Parenthood.

“I’ve been active in the fight to protect our rights since January,” said O’Donnell, “when Senator Gayle Goldin introduced the Reproductive Health Care Act. I researched, spoke publicly, testified in committee, lobbied and encouraged youth turn out through the youth organization that I founded with a local community organizer. I learned that those who oppose this movement believe that I don’t have the right as a young person to have a say in my health care.

“Reality check: I do.”

The sight of so many young women advocating for their human rights and their reproductive health care was apparently too much for the anti-choice advocates at the State House. Chris Young lectured the students before the rally began and older men with blue shirts and anti-choice signs stayed at the margins through the rally, but when the women went inside to chant and raise their voices for the Senators to hear, they found themselves in a chanting battle with anti-choice advocates. While they chanted back and forth, Chris Young was on the State House speaker system, singing songs. The speaker system is so echo-y and distorting that even under the best of conditions it’s terrible for audio. With two groups loudly chanting at each other, Young’s words were indecipherable.

1d. Reproductive Right Rally #3

The Rhode Island Senate timed things pretty poorly. A week after killing the Reproductive Health Care Act they gathered at Maria’s Cucina on Federal Hill to party with lobbyists at a Democratic Senate fundraiser. The Womxn Project decided that that this would be an excellent opportunity to let Senate Leadership know how they feel about the delay in passing legislation “that will TRULY protect” reproductive rights.

Nearly 200 people joined the rally with chants, the Extraordinary Rendition Band and the sounds of honking automobile horns. It was a two-hour cacophony of sound courtesy of Senator Stephen Archambault (Democrat, District 22, Smithfield, Johnston, North Providence) who’s last minute flip-flop on reproductive rights scuttled the bill’s passage in committee.

Stephen Archambault

The protesters booed Archambault as he entered the restaurant. They also booed Senators Michael McCaffrey (Democrat, District 29, Warwick), Frank Lombardi (Democrat, District 26, Cranston), Harold Metts (Democrat, District 6, Providence), Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence) and Lobbyist Barth Bracy, who heads up Rhode Island Right to Life as they entered the event.

Senator Stephen Archambault stares at the protest he facilitated

At one point, in a fit of insouciance worthy of Marie Antoinette, Senators Archambault, Lombardi and McCaffrey stepped outside to enjoy cigars, all while being loudly protested by the peasants outside advocating for their human rights.

1e. Conscience Clauses

Nancy Green considers a post-Roe world where freedom is granted to ignore the health care concerns of the religious majority at the expense of the rest of us:

“[I]f Republicans succeed in further restricting legal abortion, they may create an underground like the Jane Collective, that helped save women’s lives before Roe v Wade by connecting them with a doctor or practitioner who was competent to terminate their pregnancy safely. That was an act of conscience. That kind of courage emerges when physical or emotional survival is at stake. When integrity demands it. There won’t be any ‘conscience clause’ to protect the women and men who challenge this two-headed monster of church and state, but there are great souls behind them, and they are on the right side of history.”

1f. A Handmaid’s Tale

From the rotunda, a handmaid’s tale: Despite the failure of the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of the Reproductive Health Care Act to codify Roe v Wade as Rhode Island law, the fight is not yet over…” by Toby Simon on ConvergenceRI

2a. Invenergy

When people ask me if I think the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) will go for or against Invenergy’s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the irreplaceable forests of northwest Rhode Island, I don’t have an easy answer.

If the EFSB does their job and rules fairly, I say, there is no way the power plant will be licensed, but if the fix is in, who knows? This is Rhode Island after all. (See: Item 1d above.)

I spent a good amount of my time this week reading the Post-hearing Memoranda from all the parties in the case. A fair reading shows convincingly that the power plant is not needed for electricity, the power plant will cause irreparable harm to the environment, the power plant will not save ratepayers money, and Invenergy cannot be trusted.

You can read my analysis, and access the Memoranda here:

I’m working on at least one more piece in this vein to be published before the EFSB begins their final deliberations on this case in June.

2b. The Port of Providence stinks

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to Sprague Operating Resources LLC for alleged violations of Rhode Island’s Code of Regulations titled Odors, which prohibits the release of any air contaminant that creates an objectionable odor beyond the owner’s property line. The violation carries a $22,500 penalty. Sprague operates a business at 120 Allens Avenue that is engaged in the wholesale distribution of petroleum products.

You know this smell: It’s the reason you have to hold your breath every time you approach the Thurbers Avenue exit on 95. Now imagine living near the facility, breathing that every day, which is the reality for many South providence and Washington Park communities, predominantly low-income communities of color.

2c. 2nd Student Climate Strike

There were more extraordinary student voices at the State House [See: Item 1c above] on Friday, this time talking about the existential threat of climate change. Students from around the world skipped class to attend rallies. In Rhode Island, about fifty students rallied, cheered, chanted and sang in the hopes that some elected official might take this threat to their futures seriously. Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo waved to the students, but refused to meet with them.

The speeches the students presented were amazing. Here’s a taste:

“I want you to think about exactly why you’re here today,” said Camille Ledezma, an 18 year old Lincoln School student. “What are you fighting for? Who are you fighting for? Are you here because you care about your family? Your friends? The future of our generation? Are you here because you want to feel safe in your home, not threatened by so-called ‘natural’ disasters? Or maybe you’re here because we deserve to breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat healthy food and have access to nature. Maybe you’re here because climate justice is economic justice, climate justice is racial justice. Are you here because you’re tired of corrupt politicians and their inaction on climate change?

“Remember to think about the people and places you love while you’re fighting, because I know it gets really tiring.

“I’m here because I’m deeply angered at the state in which so many politicians and fossil fuel CEOs have left our world…”

3. Anti-Fascism

Rhode Island State Senator Donna Nesselbush (Democrat, District 15, Pawtucket) has introduced a resolution (S0829) that denounces and opposes white nationalism and neo-Nazi groups in Rhode Island.

In the resolution, Nesselbush cited the “shocking and appalling events that took place on August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, on October 27, 2018, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and on April 27, 2019, in Poway, California…”

After a brief conversation in which I pointed out that we’ve had two violent pro-fascist rallies here in Providence, Nesselbush told me she will see about amending the resolution to cite these more local incidents.

See:

Meanwhile, leaked Proud Boys chats show members plotting violence at rallies in Providence, writes Andy Campbell on the HuffPost. The Proud Boys is the white nationalist fascist group responsible for violence at a Rhode Island State House rally.

Campbell writes:

In the chats, covering a time period between February and March of this year, members claimed they needed a conclusive “win” this time around, which they defined as a bloody battle against “antifa” in Providence. If this brawl were bigger and more violent than previous iterations, they might regain some of the street cred and followers they’d lost.

“We’ll grow this group of patriots and we’ll never back down,” wrote the event’s organizer, Proud Boys member Alan Swinney, in the private chat messages. “If we win, it will make more patriots come to the next rally. We just need to go there and we’ll beat them. We’ll have enough to crush them at some point.”

That April rally never happened, and it looks like the rally scheduled for June is not happening either.

In this video, taken at the “Resist Marxism” rally last October, you can watch out-of-state Proud Boys assault Rhode Islanders for over a minute while the Rhode Island State police look on.

4. Alex Kithes

Alex Kithes is running for an open seat on the Woonsocket City Council. He’s a full time environmental activist and headed up Rhode Islanders for Reform, which tried to bring changes to rules of the Rhode Island House and Senate in the interests of more Democracy and less concentrated power in the hands of the Speaker of the House and Senate president.

Here’s Kithes speaking at the Student Climate Strike on Friday:

5. Second Amendment Sanctuary Towns

A new report by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, How “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” Are Threatening Lifesaving Gun Laws, draws a correlation between Second Amendment Sanctuary Towns/Cities and high rates of suicide by gun.

“According to the report, nine of the 10 Colorado counties with the highest gun suicide rates over the past 10 years have declared themselves ‘Second Amendment Sanctuaries.’ 22 of the 24 sanctuary counties for which suicide data is available had gun suicide rates above the national average,” writes the Giffords Law Center, a national public-interest law center that works to prevent death and injury due to firearms. “Cluster County, for example, has the highest gun suicide rate in Colorado—three times the state average and nearly five times the national average. The county’s sheriff, however, says he believes the extreme risk law ‘contradict[s] the right to bear arms” and is unconstitutional.'”

Lauren Niedel writes about Glocester, Rhode Island’s consideration of Second Amendment Sanctuary status here.

The town councils of Burrillville, Richmond, Foster and Hopkinton have voted to declare themselves Second Amendment Sanctuary Towns. West Warwick has voted to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary City. The Town of Glocester plans to vote on the issue in June and the Town of Tiverton will vote on the resolution on May 28th.

6. ecoRI

7. GoLocalProv

8. ACLU

9. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

10. Picture of the week:

So many to choose from, but I can only pick one so:

Representative James McLaughlin (Democrat, District 57, Central Falls) bravely stands with other men against the high school students rallying for their reproductive rights on Thursday

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About Steve Ahlquist 1027 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.atomicsteve@gmail.com