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The Uprising! June 1, 2019

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“We are here today in frustration and outrage at our Senators and Governor Gina Raimondo for not coming out against Invenergy‘s proposed power plant in Burrillville.”

Kathy Martley, Burrillville BASE

What did UpriseRI cover this week? I wrote a little poem:

Housing, labor, immigration,
Guns, peace, special election,
Climate, Jesus, reproduction,
Gas plants, fascism, menstruation!

Let’s do this!

1. Menstrual Products

“This is a women’s health and women’s rights issue,” said Representative Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence). But she wasn’t talking about abortion rights, the protection of which seems ever more precarious as the General Assembly tumbles headlong towards end of session. Walsh is talking about menstruation, and the sales taxes women are required to pay for these essential hygiene products.

“My community is one of the lowest socioeconomic groups in Providence,” said Walsh at a press conference for the bill to eliminate the sales tax on these products, H5307/S0049. “There are young women, girls, students and workers who miss work every month because they don’t have access to affordable feminine hygiene products. There are girls who are missing important school days. There are women who are taking sick days because they can’t afford the basic hygiene products that they need.”

Moira Walsh

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Days earlier the Rhode Island Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) announced the results of an effort, Help a Sister Out Period, done in conjunction with unions throughout the state, that resulted in a donation of 62,000 menstrual products being delivered to the Rhode Island Food Bank.

“We understood that there were women who didn’t go to work because even women who have jobs, who are low wage workers, cannot afford the products they need if it comes upon you suddenly,” said Maureen Martin, President of CLUW and Secretary-Treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO. “Everywhere we went we talked to people about it and the surprising thing was how little people, women and men, understood that it was even an issue. They didn’t understand the poverty of it.”

Maureen Martin

2a. Immigration

AMOR (Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance) met in Central Falls’ River Island Park on Memorial Day, and after sharing some words together in reflection of the lives lost, marched to the Wyatt Detention Facility, where there are currently over 100 undocumented immigrants being held in United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

“Since September 2018, six known youth have died being held in United States Customs and Border Patrol custody,” said AMOR‘s Arely Diaz, reading a prepared statement. “We are here today to mourn the loss of their lives and to speak against the violence of detention and incarceration. These young people came to the United States seeking refuge, and instead were met with negligence and brutality, ultimately resulting in their deaths.

“We also want to acknowledge that there are many names we do not know, those who have died while in Customs and Border Patrol custody, while crossing the so-called United States/Mexico border or while incarcerated in the United States prison system. We recognize the deaths of these six young people and of all those whose names we do not know as acts of state violence, and we commit to fighting against the oppressive systems of immigration, detention, incarceration, imperialism and white supremacy in our communities and beyond.”

2b. Reverend Charles Ortman

“In this current era of divisiveness and bigotry, I find myself thinking of the thousands of sung and unsung heroes who sheltered Jewish refugees during the Nazi Holocaust,” writes Reverend Charles Blustein Ortman, the Minister of Immigration and Sanctuary for the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, in an oped. “I also think of the thousands more who did nothing to stem the tide of hatred in that day. The time for our questioning is now – which side of this historical moment are we willing to be a part of? The time for our action, from individuals and houses of worship, lies just ahead.”

3. Fascism

An amended version of a Senate Resolution denouncing and opposing white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday evening. Introduced by Senator Donna Nesselbush (Democrat, District 15, Pawtucket) by her constituent Herb Weiss, the resolution was written to satisfy the First Amendment free speech concerns expressed by the ACLU of Rhode Island when the resolution was introduced last year.

The resolution was modified to incorporate incidents from Rhode Island’s recent history, including two white supremacist rallies held on the south lawn of the Rhode Island State House. The resolution now reads, in part:

“WHEREAS, In August and October of 2018, hate groups organized by Resist Marxism attempted to hold rallies at Rhode Island’s State House in order to promote racist and white supremacy agendas that are in irreconcilable conflict with our State’s and our Nation’s foundational principles of liberty and justice for all. Counter protesters were organized by Ocean State Against Hate, a local antifascist coalition. At both events, as is often the case with these hate group’s demonstrations, the rallies turned violent and police were forced to disperse everyone;”

Testifying on the resolution, I said, “…it’s because of the people who go out and counter protest that these things don’t happen, that we do not have rallies like this on a monthly basis, that groups like the Proud Boys and other white supremacist organizations haven’t really taken root here.

“We always ask ourselves what we would have done if we lived in pre-Nazi Germany and I think we all now know what we would have done, because we’re doing it now. Whatever we’re doing now is exactly what we’d have done previous to the Nazi takeover.”

4. Guns

On Tuesday, the Tiverton Town Council voted down a resolution that would have declared Tiverton a second amendment sanctuary town by a vote of 4-3. Town Councilors Denise deMedeiros, Nancy Driggs, Patricia Hilton and Joseph Perry voted against. Council President Robert Coulter, Council Vice-President Justin Katz and Councilor Donna Cook voted in favor of the resolution.

“To be clear, none of the current laws on the books in Rhode Island or any of the proposed laws submitted by the Attorney General violate the Second Amendment,” said Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) President Linda Finn, addressing the Council. “None of the laws proposed would require any firearms to be confiscated from law-abiding gun owners. The idea that local police will be confiscating and stockpiling hundreds of weapons that would need extra storage is just not the case.”

5a. Reproductive Rights

With the General Assembly rapidly approaching the end of session, the status of a bill to codify the human rights protections of Roe v Wade into Rhode Island State Law seems ever more precarious. Next week, with no resolution in sight, nine groups are coming together to holding a rally at the State House: Let It Out: An Emergency Action for Reproductive Rights.

“This has been a hard fought effort by advocates and organizations for decades — and now with overwhelming support from the General Assembly and the voters in Rhode Island, it is clear — the time is now!” wrote the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, ACLU of Rhode Island, Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island, RI NOW (RI National Organization for Women), The Woman Project HQ, RI Religious Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, Indivisible RI and Hope and Change For Haiti in the announcement for the event.

This week, as a fundraiser was held for Senator Stephen Archambault (Democrat, District 22, Smithfield, Johnston, North Providence) at Ladder 133 in Providence, The Womxn Project held a small rally at the Rhode Island State House. Archambault is the Senator who claimed to be pro-choice but at the last minute reversed his position and voted against the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA), siding with the anti-choice Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

During the protest at the State House, students from Classical High School in Providence, in the building for prom photos, also took pictures in support of choice.

5b. Audrey O’Donnell

“I often remind myself that women are not the only people who need access to abortion. Queer people, non-binary, transgender, agender, bigender, gender fluid folks, and many more are included in this conversation,” writes reproductive health care activist Audrey O’Donnell in an oped. “So we are here today to stand for everybody who accesses reproductive health care. We must advocate for everyone and protect our right to make our own medical decisions as we step into our futures.”

6. Fire Fighters

The Rhode Island State Association of Fire Fighters (RISAFF) and our affiliated locals picketed Senator Senator Mark McKenney (Democrat, District 30, Warwick) at his fundraiser Thursday evening.

The Fire Fighters picketed McKenney because of disparaging remarks he made about Fire Fighter safety on the Senate floor during the debate on Senate Bill S0747 on May 1. The bill removes the overtime exemption for Fire Fighters unless they are paid at the rate of one and one-half times their regular rate for all hours worked in excess of 42 hours. McKenney voted against the bill, which to the Fire Fighters is not the issue.

During the hearing McKenney said, “I’ve been told there is a safety issue, but I take a look at that and it seems to me that when overtime is paid the safety concern seems to disappear.”

“These comments needed to be responded to and this is the way we responded… When it comes to safety, you can’t cross that line and unfortunately he did,” said Joseph Andriole, President of the RISAFF. “We take Fire Fighter safety very seriously because our safety is the public safety… I’m hoping that the Senator looks at what he said and realizes that he made an error by not caring about our wellbeing.”

Extra special thanks to UpriseRI correspondent Maggie Kain for this piece!

7. Open Meetings Act

The Providence Journal‘s Tom Mooney wrote a piece on the Open Meetings Act in Rhode Island, and featured prominently in the piece was this reporter. The Open Meetings Act ensures the public’s right to monitor and record public meetings. It doesn’t just apply to reporters. I’ve twice had to publicly argue with officials in charge of public meetings over my right to video a meeting, as documented in the ProJo piece.

“My real concern about this is,” I said in the piece, “if you don’t know the law, like an inexperienced reporter or someone from the public, you could be easily intimidated by this kind of strong-arm tactics. Freedom of information is for everyone.”

8. Alex Kithes

Alex Kithes, a climate activist and political reformer, is running for an open seat on the Woonsocket City Council. He was speaking at a rally at The Art Den in downtown Woonsocket to about fifty supporters on Wednesday evening.

“The city needs to focus on sustainability oriented, short and long term economic development,” said Kithes. “That means addressing our budget crisis head-on, working against the problems that come with establishment politics, enthusiastically investing in public education and public school teachers, working to de-carbonize our energy and address the climate crisis here at home by helping renewable energy companies create projects in the city and growing our tax base as a result, reduce the red tape that make that makes it hard for this city to become an Arts Haven, compassionately address homelessness and the opioid crisis and work as hard as possible to expand the tax base – revitalizing our mainstream and local economy so that people can one day stop talking about what Woonsocket once was and start talking about what Woonsocket has become.

“We have to fix this. We have no choice.”

Alex Kithes

9a. Burrillville Objects!

“We are here today in frustration and outrage at our Senators and Governor Gina Raimondo for not coming out against Invenergy‘s proposed power plant in Burrillville,” said Kathy Martley of Burrillville BASE, one of the first groups to oppose the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in northwest Rhode Island. “All of these towns, in and around Rhode Island, have made resolutions against building this proposed power plant.”

Martley was speaking to a group of roughly fifty people, mostly from Burrillville, who were at the Rhode Island State House in opposition to Invenergy’s planned $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant, aimed at the irreplaceable forests of northwest Rhode Island. The Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), is expected to make a final decision on whether or not to license the plant in June, nearly four years after Governor Gina Raimondo promised the company’s CEO Michael Polski to do everything in her power to make the plant happen.

“We have been fighting for four years, speaking to Senators, to the Governor, [holding] rallies, getting the facts of this fracked gas diesel power plant, giving the facts about the danger, the hazards, pertaining to Invenergy’s power plant,” said Martley. “We have not been put first in the eyes of our government. Even though we have spoken, our voices have not been heard.”

Richard Dionne

9b. Nicole DiPaolo

“People are outraged at the inconvenience of these acts of civil disobedience,” writes Climate activist Nicole DiPaolo in an oped on the necessity of climate activism. “But whats inconvenient is entire countries being drown out by the rising seas, their plastic filled shores growing smaller and the people growing more and more scared. Communities are being displaced by drought, by famine, by wildfires. We are seeing fracking induced earthquakes. We are seeing cancer sweep entire cities whose water source is poisoned by mountain top removal. We are seeing CEOs getting richer, investing in these projects, destroying indigenous ways of life, uprooting sacred land, making children into data who frequent the hospital for asthma attack and respiratory diseases. We are seeing regulations for corporations go down and prices go up. We are seeing the employees of the richest companies die due to unjust working conditions, and even those Amazon workers went on strike to pressure Bezos into taking action on climate change.

“What we are up against is centuries of conquest, a culture of oppression that has one goal and that is to convince us that business as usual will one day help us to conquest something of our own! But I know that all of you out there with the Lorax signs can see – without the climate, there will be nothing left.”

10. Jesus v Franklin Graham

More than 3,800 people crowded into East Providence’s Bold Point Park to hear the message of Christian evangelist and missionary Franklin Graham. Graham, who once implied that Trump’s election was a miracle of God and persistently denigrates the LGBTQ community. Graham’s message was countered by three Christian women with a very different message.

“I believe that Jesus loves everybody and that everyone should be welcomed into the church, into the Kingdom of God” said Kristine Farrelly. “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people. It’s not our job to point it out and marginalize people, say, ‘You’re not good enough to be part of our church’ or that, ‘You’re not good enough for salvation.’

“We’re called to love others and to allow Jesus to do the work in their heart,” continued Farrelly. “Everyone has a right to happiness. I affirm the fact that Jesus loves [LGBTQ people] and accepts them for who they are, despite the messages they might be getting from other church people.”

“So you don’t think Franklin Graham is bringing that message to people here today?” I asked.

“Not from what I understand,” said Farrelly. “I don’t think your sexual identity or gender identity has anything to do with your heart. Back in the day, Jesus saved a woman who committed adultery from being stoned to death. If Jesus were alive today, he would stand with LGBTQ folks, not against them.”

Kristine Farrelly

11. Pie-Corner Talks

I sat down with Jennifer Roarke, host of the podcast Pie-Corner Talks, for a wide ranging discussion that ran 90 minutes, and could have easily run longer if someone hadn’t kicked us out of the studio. Check it out here.

12. HomesRI

HomesRI advocated for their legislative priorities on Thursday at the Rhode Island State House. HomesRI is specifically calling for the passage of the following legislation:

  • reduce legal barriers for Rhode Island renters (S0322/H5075)
  • protect Rhode Islanders from housing discrimination (S0331/H5137)
  • invest $5 million in building and preserving affordable homes (H5858)

13. Peace

No More Endless War and Militarism held a picket outside the Cranston offices of Senator Jack Reed (Democrat, Rhode Island) on Wednesday with the message that, “It’s time to shift our economic priorities away from corporate profits.”

14. ACLU of Rhode Island

15. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

16. The People’s Radio

Ian Donnis, Scott MacKay and Maureen Moakley interview Representative David Place (Republican, District 47, Burrillville, Glocester) about Second Amendment Sanctuary Towns and more.

17. ecoRI

18. Picture of the Week

Lilian Calderon is free and clear to stay with her family in Rhode Island. Full story soon…

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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. atomicsteve@gmail.com

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