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Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising! July 12, 2019



Welcome to The Uprising! Grab a sign and bring it to the protests. The arc of history doesn’t bend toward justice unless we put our backs into it.

1a. AMOR

Protests continue across the country in opposition to the cruel immigration policies of the Trump Administration that has seen children and families locked in concentration camps, their basic human rights violated. On this front, Rhode Island is holding its own.

Carrying signs, chanting and singing songs, over 90 people marched in honor of migrant lives lost while trying to cross the Mexico/United States border and at the hands of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The march, organized by AMOR (Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance) began at Donigian Park on Valley Street in Providence and ended two hours later, just as the rain began, at Dexter Park near the Armory.

“We are here to remember and honor those who were killed by ICE and we are here to remember and honor everyone who was not able to arrive here, on this side [of the border],” said AMOR co-director Catarina Lorenzo.

1b. Wyatt

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The Wyatt Detention Center, a controversial for-profit prison in Central Falls, is holding 139 United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees as per the Warden’s report to the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation Board of Directors, the entity nominally in charge of overseeing the operations of the prison.

Reporters were disappointed to see that the Board members, Herman Yip, Wilder Arboleda and Gary Berdugo, were seemingly afraid to answer questions. Perhaps because of the still being litigated lawsuit brought against them by the bondholders, people who thought it a good idea to invest in private prisons and human misery. (Decisions on that lawsuit, which were supposed to have happened this month, have been pushed of to December.)

“I know people want some sort of reaction about the protests,” said Channel 12 reporter Shiina LoSciuto. “There’s reasons that people are coming out here. Are you sure there’s nothing you can tell us, to relay a message?”

“That wouldn’t be my role,” said the Board’s legal counsel, William E O’Gara from the legal firm Pannone Lopes Devereaux and O’Gara.

“Who can I ask?” asked LoSciuto.

“I don’t know,” said O’Gara.

“That’s the problem, right?” I asked. “If it’s not your role, if it’s not the Board, whose role is it?”

“I’m not sure,” said O’Gara.

“Yeah,” I said, “That seems like a black box, that there’s no answers coming from.”

Meanwhile, 139 people sit inside the Wyatt, their status uncertain.

The Wyatt Board

1c. Charges Dropped

The 18 people arrested outside the Wyatt last week had their charges dropped by the City of Fall River after each agreed to donate $100 to a pro-immigration community group. The protesters had blocked a gate at the prison.

On Facebook, one of those arrested, former State Representative Aaron Regunberg, wrote, “We are grateful the City of Central Falls is recognizing – through their offer to drop charges – that our nonviolent civil disobedience did not harm any person or individual, and was targeted at the unjust detainment of migrants at the Wyatt facility. As part of this agreement, we look forward to joining together to contribute to local organizations like Fuerza Laboral that support immigrant communities here in Central Falls.

“We also want to make clear that this is not the end of our involvement in this fight. We were in court today because atrocities are being committed against migrants at the border and immigrants here in our own state. As Jews, immigrants, and allies, and as family members of Holocaust survivors, we understand where legalized dehumanization can lead, and we know from our history how important it is to speak up when vulnerable communities are targeted with hate, legal exclusion, and violence. That is exactly what is happening at the border camps and in for-profit ICE detention facilities like the Wyatt. And that’s why we will continue standing up alongside our immigrant neighbors until this state-sponsored violence has ended, and ‘Never Again’ really means something.”

1d. Priests for Justice, Pax Christie, and the Sisters of Mercy

Members and allies of three Catholic groups, Priests for Justice, Pax Christie, and the Sisters of Mercy, stood outside the United States District Court near Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence on Wednesday to protest the ruthless and inhumane immigration policies of the Trump Administration. Specifically, they were addressing the issues of family separation and the abuse of children in detention centers along the border and throughout the United States.

“We’re upset about what’s going on at the border, the abuse of children, the migrants and how these children are being affected long term. They’re being traumatized,” said Linda Regan, one of the organizers at the protest. “They’re being sexually abused. They’re not getting food, water, clothing, proper care, beds, showers, drinking water, and we think something needs to be said.

“This is not acceptable in this country to treat children this way.”

1e. The FANG Collective

1f. Katherine Bogen

1g. Kevin Andrade

2a. Environmental Racism

Renewing the air permit for a company like Shell Oil Products, located at 520 Allens Avenue in Providence, is an easy, rubber stamp process for the company. But due to the efforts of Monica Huertas, executive director of No LNG in PVD and Washington Park resident and Linda Perri, president of the Washington Park Neighborhood Association, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM)’s Office of Air Resources was compelled to hold a public hearing, so residents could directly present their concerns to the agency.

Shell is seeking to renew their Title V Operating Permit, basically a license to pollute our air to a degree deemed safe by State and Federal regulators. Companies like Shell are allowed to pollute the air in the Port of Providence, right next to Washington Park, a community of mostly low-income people of color because, well, racism.

Huertas gave the first part of her testimony in Spanish, with the help of a translator.

“I want you to know that we’re always going to say No here because you’re giving this to companies that have money and because they have money you’re allowing it,” said Huertas. “And I want you to know that here in our community, we’re always going to say No.”

“The reason that I’m speaking Spanish is because now, you’re in my community,” said Heurtas. “You’re in my community, I want you to know you’re in my community.”

No one spoke in favor of renewing the Shell permit. 20 people spoke against renewal. Yet despite this, if the DEM rules against the permit, it will be nothing short of miraculous.

2b. Chase Bank

A recent report released by the Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, BankTrack, Oil Change International, Indigenous Environmental Network, and Honor the Earth shows that several major United States banks have increased their investments in fossil fuels every year since the 2016 Paris Agreement – with JP Morgan Chase by far lending the largest amount to the most fossil fuel projects around the world.

Chase has invested $196B into tar sands, arctic drilling, and fracking since 2016 – more than any other bank. Since President Donald Trump took office, Chase has quadrupled its investments in tar sands oil and increased its financing of coal by over 2,000 percent.

And now they want your business, so they can do even more of this kind of work.

Chase Bank is beginning a major expansion into Rhode Island with the planned openings of 8-10 branches, including one on Thayer Street in Providence, but that move is being challenged by environmental groups who call Chase the “#1 Worst Bank in the World for funding fossil fuel projects.”

Members and allies of Sunrise RI and Climate Action Rhode Island (CARI), some dressed in yellow “toxic” jumpsuits, descended on the as yet unopened Chase Bank located at 234 Thayer Street carrying signs and bullhorns. Protesters called on the CEO of Chase Bank, Jamie Dimon, to stop funding the fossil fuel industry and, until they do so, they are calling upon Rhode Islanders to boycott Chase.

“Our ask of Chase Bank and CEO Jamie Dimon is simple: listen to the science, acknowledge the crisis, and stop funding fossil fuel extraction,” said Nicole DiPaolo, a longtime Rhode Island activist on environmental and other social justice issues. “Until they respond, we call upon Rhode Islanders to boycott Chase Bank. We will not sit by as flooding, wildfires, droughts, heat waves, and other effects of human-induced global warming cause widespread devastation, suffering, and over 150,000 deaths per year and rising. We want corporations and policy makers in the United States to take accountability for their role in this, and make choices that protect our health and the future of life on earth.”

3a. State Rankings are bullshit

Local and national media breathlessly reported the news that CNBC has ranked Rhode Island 50 out of 50 for business climate in their ‘2019 America’s Top States for Business.’

The problem is that such rankings are complete bullshit, pseudoscience masquerading as economic analysis, with the intent of scaring state governments into slashing corporate taxes and increasing corporate welfare, at the expense of working families.

But why is UpriseRI the only news agency reporting this?

“Despite distributing 2,500 points over ten areas, the ranking fails to measure actual business activity, such as the opening and closing of businesses,” writes the Economic Progress Institute (EPI) in a statement, “This year’s ranking of Rhode Island is suspect if only because CNBC grades the state with a D+ for Quality of Life. One of the state’s top grades is for Education.

“The CNBC report figures as one among five or six such rankings, include that of the Tax Foundation. Just within this group of reports, the rankings vary wildly. For example, the CNBC rankings place Virginia in the number one spot, whereas the Tax Foundation’s 2019 report ranks that state at 35. Yet, the Tax Foundation rates Alaska as tied for first place, while the CNBC report places Alaska at 47 out of 50.

“Because such reports rank not business activity, but instead an arbitrarily defined “business climate,” they are more tools for business organizations to advocate for lower corporate taxes than to tell us what business owners actually seek and do. Those individuals starting and growing businesses take many factors into account, and different businesses have varied needs. There is no evidence that the CNBC or similar rankings or the factors they weigh most heavily play significant roles in such decisions by actual business owners.”

Or, in my words, “It’s bullshit.”

But at a deeper level, why isn’t our local media more critical in examining these kinds of reports? Why is the political class in Rhode Island using these bullshit reports to go after each other, as when Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello went after Governor Gina Raimondo, or when Republican Ken Block went after the Democrats, or when Mike Stenhouse from the right-wing Center for Freedom and Prosperity went after State House leadership.

These rankings are a tool the rich and powerful use to hurt the rest of us, and the media that uncritically reports on these rankings are complicit.

3b. Ed Achorn

Right on cue, pro-business extremist Ed Achorn of the Providence Journal buys into every word of the CNBC business rankings with his Editorial: Rhode Island must do better than worst. Like I said, these rankings are just weapons for people like Achorn to hurt us with.

3c. Barry Schiller

Following the publication of the CNBC bullshit report, Barry Schiller dug up this Swiftian piece he originally wrote for the Providence Phoenix:

4a. Kevin Olasanoye

The New Jersey Democratic State Committee (NJDSC) has hired Tolulope Kevin Olasanoye as its new Executive Director. This means that he will be exiting his position as Executive Director of the Rhode Island Democratic Party (RIDP).

Olasanoye will be missed by this reporter because despite our frequent disagreements, he was always open and took tough questions with grace and good humor. The same cannot always be said for other Democratic Party leaders in this state. (Looking at you, Mr Speaker.)

“It has been an absolute honor to serve as the Rhode Island Democratic Party Executive Director for the past two years,” wrote Olasanoye on Facebook. “However, after some serious deliberation, I have decided to take on another exciting opportunity.”

There is no word yet on his replacement.

4b. Tracy Ramos

Tracy Ramos, the current Chair of the Rhode Island Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, announced that she is resigning from her position.

Though there was no reason given other than “personal reasons,” rumors are flying that the RIDP wants more control over the Women’s Caucus, specifically they want control over the money the Caucus has raised.

There is no word yet on her replacement.

4c. Rhode Island Working Families

Maurice Mitchell, National Director of the Working Families Party (WFP) paid Rhode Island a visit Tuesday night, meeting with supporters at Xaco Taco. (Review: Delicious).

Connecticut and Massachusetts have both passed a $15 minimum wage, Rhode Island has yet to do that,” said Mitchell. “The people of Rhode Island are really progressive, so we need to make sure that the legislature is advancing the popular will of the people, and we think that Working Families has a unique role to play in that.”

“This year Rhode Island didn’t pass any increase in the minimum wage at all,” I offered.

“And that’s unacceptable,” said Mitchell. “A lot of people think of the Northeast as being this progressive bastion, right? And many national organizations that have a national footprint ignore states like Rhode Island because they just assume that these places have Democratic legislatures, Democratic governors and therefore progressive values are being reflected in the governance.”

“So we’re going to be very, very aggressive over the balance of 2019 into 2020 recruiting and identifying people to run really groundbreaking legislative battles all around the state,” continued Mitchell. “[We’ll] be ensuring that a very progressive state, in terms of the population, is being true to the progressive promise of where the population is already.”

4d. Abolish Rhode Island’s General Officers

Samuel Gifford Howard has a radical idea…

5. John Hope Settlement House

“As I speak tonight, my office is working to set up a community meeting, and I want you all to pass the word,” said Providence City Council Member Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11) at a press conference outside the grounds of the John Hope Settlement House. “I want you all to be a part of it. We’re inviting Attorney General Peter Neronha and the purpose of that is to help us understand exactly what are the rules regulations and the real power of [the John Hope Settlement House] Board.”

“So you want to replace the Board?” I asked.

“We want to change the Board,” said Harris. “We want the organization to stay vibrant and strong in the neighborhood. We want to celebrate 90 years. We really want to celebrate that. We want to celebrate the historical fact of this organization.”

6. To the Moon and Beyond

To the Moon and Beyond, a series of events planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing on July 20, kicked off Monday evening with the opening reception for “Museum of the Moon,” an enormous art installation by English artist Luke Jerram, a highly-detailed 23′ diameter illuminated Moon hanging in the main hall of the WaterFire Arts Center.

There are events planned throughout July.

7. Twin River Casino

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on July 1 charged Twin River Casino with illegally withholding records of crimes committed against patrons, vendors and other guests at the Lincoln, Rhode Island casino. A trial on the charges is scheduled for October 29, 2019.

“My shift ends at 2 or 3 in the morning,” said Gloria Fitzpatrick, a Validator and Union Business Manager. “I can’t be walking through the parking lots alone at that hour with what’s been going on. We need to know what areas are most unsafe and why, and then we need to do something.”

8. ACLU of Rhode Island

9. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

10. Burrillville Now

11. East Greenwich News

12. Photo of the Week:

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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.

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