The Uprising! July 19, 2019

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President Donald Trump‘s war on immigrants and asylum seekers continued this week, even as threats of mass immigration raids failed to materialize. This isn’t to say that United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was somehow inactive, but there were few reports of increased or unusual ICE activity.

Instead, Trump has ratcheted up the racism and xenophobia of his base, telling four progressive American woman Representatives to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Days later, at a rally, Trump’s fans chanted “Send Her Back” at Trump’s mention of Representative Ilhan Omar‘s name.

It feels like another step on the way to full throttled fascism.

1a. Immigration Raids

Just in case the immigration raids came to Providence, Mayor Jorge Elorza announced that under his administration, Providence Police personnel were being ordered not to cooperate with ICE.

“As the Trump Administration considers raids throughout the country and potentially even in our community, I want to make it clear that our local law enforcement will not be aiding or assisting in any way in their hate-filled efforts to threaten our communities,” said Elorza.

Mayor Elorza, surrounded by community members and City officials

At the press conference, Elorza introduced experts in immigration law such as immigration attorney Joseph Molina Flynn, who gave advice on hos to avoid being arrested and how to act if you are arrested.

Tonya Valencia, an attorney handling primarily removal defense cases for low-income immigrants at Dorcas RI, also had some advice.

“The Center for Justice has developed the Family Preparedness Plan,” said Valencia. “It helps explain what may happen to families with children whose adult guardians are facing deportation. Family Preparedness Plans are available in Spanish and English, and can be found at the Center for Justice’s website.

“The AMOR support line is a 24 hour phone line that connects community members with a broad network of services. Services are available in Spanish and English and the phone number is 401-675-1414.

“Lastly, I’d urge anyone who has a case specific question to call Dorcas International,” concluded Valencia. “Ask to speak with me directly.”

1b. Lights for Liberty

Around 500 people gathered on the south lawn of the Rhode Island State House to hold an illuminated vigil for all those held in United States detention camps and to “bring light to the darkness” of the abusive policies and human rights violations of the Trump Administration.

Over a dozen speakers addressed the crowd, ahead of Reverend Donnie Anderson holding a moment of silence, in concert with similar protests being held in nearly 800 locations across the world.

1c. Amory

“Last summer, some friends and I demonstrated outside the Bristol County Jail, a jail and ICE detention center in North Dartmouth, MA,” writes Amory Zhou-Kourvo in a statement. “We were there to protest the caging of human beings – by ICE and the rest of the carceral system, too – and to support the prisoners’ hunger strike. After police officers recklessly and haphazardly tore two of us out of our tripods and jackhammered Holly and I out of our blockade, the four of us sat in jail overnight. Today, after a long and confusing legal proceeding, I am returning to a jail cell for 10 days for that action.”

Zhou-Kourvo and Holly Stein were arrested after their arms were removed from a concrete filled tire. Stein served a similar ten-day sentence in June.

Activist Amory Zhou-Kourvo just before entering court for sentencing

1d. Wyatt Detention Facility

“The Donald W Wyatt Detention Facility is a non-profit, quasi-public facility,” states a press release from the prison. “It is not a for-profit, private prison.”

Hold on. This doesn’t make sense. The Wyatt was built to generate revenue for the City of Fall River, and there are bondholders out there suing in Federal Court to force the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation Board (CFDFC) to continue to allow the prison to hold ICE detainees, presumably because these bondholders want to profit from their investment.

“Pursuant to Rhode Island General Law Chapter 45-54 the Wyatt Detention Center is a non-profit, quasi-public entity. Similar to other quasi-public entities, the Wyatt’s enabling statute allows the facility to issue revenue bonds,” wrote Wyatt spokesperson Christopher Hunter in reply to my questions. “The bond holders recently took legal action regarding debt incurred in connection with the construction and expansion of the facility because they believed the actions taken undermined the Wyatt’s ability to re-pay the monies they are owed.”

The rest of the Wyatt press release is a long list of accreditations attesting to the safety, security, detainee rights and health services provided by the prison. Take it for what it’s worth.

2. Sunrise RI

Members and allies of Sunrise Rhode Island, a youth-led campaign dedicated to stopping climate change and bringing racial, economic, and environmental justice to the forefront of our national discourse, entered the offices of the Rhode Island Democratic Party (RIDP) in Warwick yesterday to demand that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) listen to their base and center the ongoing climate crisis by voting in favor of a Climate Debate.

They were handily stopped by outgoing Executive Director of the RIDP, Tolulope Kevin Olasanoye. Short version?

“We’re here today because we’ve witnessed the failure of the political leadership on climate for as long as I’ve been alive,” said Estrella Rodriguez a student with Sunrise RI.

“We care about this issue and we’re going to do something about it. I can’t tell you what the DNC is going to do. I can’t tell you,” said Olasanoye. Later, he added, “If you care about climate change, you ought to care that Donald Trump is not elected in 2020.”

In other words, what are you going to do if the Democrats do nothing about climate change? Vote Republican?

2b. Rhode Island Progressive Democrats

The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America aim to generate 200 percent of the energy that Rhode Island needs by creating a plan to revitalize Rhode Island and fight climate change by transforming the Ocean State into a producer of solar, tidal, and onshore wind energy, and to return energy profits to Rhode Island as citizen dividends and funding for cities and the state. Rhode Island spends $3B on energy every year, and as an energy producer, we can keep that money in our state and add more.

It’s a bold plan, and similar to one fronted by progressive gubernatorial candidate Matt Brown during the Democratic Primary.

Our present wind plan is exactly like our fracked gas plan: Give all the profits away to some large overseas company like National Grid to control our energy future. This plan develops wind as a jointly owned resource.

2c. FERC

I wasn’t there, but on Saturday July 13th, climate justice activists from Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) held a protest outside Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) commissioner Cheryl LaFleur’s home in Wellesley, Massachusetts. LaFleur is a former National Grid executive vice president and acting CEO of National Grid USA. She also chaired FERC, which is the independent government agency responsible for regulating any energy project that crosses state lines, including all major natural gas and oil pipelines. The activists dropped a banner that read, “You can’t be neutral on a burning planet,” and demanded that LaFleur vote no on all new fossil fuel infrastructure at the next FERC meeting in Washington, DC.

3. Homelessness

Steve Sceeles wasn’t homeless the night he was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on June 9, on Pearl Street in Providence. He also wasn’t sleeping in a crossroad when the car hit him, as stated in the Providence Journal, said his friends and advocates, who had gathered in the parking lot of Salvation Army on Broad Street on Friday afternoon to remember their friend.

Sceeles, 61 years old, had lived a long time on the streets, but had recently found housing. Despite that, he often spent time on the streets with friends who remain homeless.

Friends hold a picture of Steven Sceeles

“There’s nothing fundamentally different about anyone who’s experiencing homelessness than anyone who is housed,” said Megan Smith, an outreach worker for House of Hope. “The true issue is structural. People who are born poor, who are born with disabilities, who are born as people of color or [born into any] other kinds of marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by homelessness. So it’s bad luck, but also all of these deep structural factors that I don’t think we often use language to talk about.”

4a. Guns

“Nothing we do tonight with this resolution would be legally binding whatsoever,” said West Warwick Town Council Member Jason Messier (Ward 3, Unaffiliated) noting that gun laws are decided on the State and Federal level, not by local municipalities.

The West Warwick Town Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. The resolution stopped short of declaring West Warwick a Sanctuary Town, a term that has come under more and more scrutiny and gained less acceptance since the Burrillville Town Council first passed a Gun Sanctuary resolution back in April.

In West Warwick, all five council members voted for the resolution.

4b. Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) honored advocates for their gun sense efforts, including Representative Grace Diaz, Ash Rodriguez of One Gun Gone as the Youth of the Year, and Thoughts, Prayers, Action, a group of Brown University students, as the Organization of the Year.

They were also kind enough to award me “Muckraker of the Year” for my work n documenting and writing about the ongoing issue of guns in our society. My award consisted of UpriseRI tee shirts! I’ll get of these made soon. Here is Paul Roselli and me wearing the new shirts!

Not the greatest picture, it says, “Rhode Island’s Favorite Muckraiser” across the bottom.

5. Governor Gina Raimondo

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (Democrat), Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont (Democrat), and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (Republican) held a meeting at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Connecticut on Tuesday. The meeting was described as an informal, private conversation to “discuss issues of regional importance to the three states, including energy, transportation, infrastructure, procurement and data sharing.”

Not much of importance seems to have been discussed at the meeting. But Governor Raimondo has been getting discussed a lot this week.

Graham questions the propriety of a 20 year no-bid contract with IGT to handle the State’s lottery program. There’s much to agree with in Graham’s piece, but there’s other stuff to consider. IGT is a major employer in Rhode Island, and keeping the business and the employees in Rhode Island is a smart move.

In this piece, Friedman posited Raimondo, “Rhode Island’s governor, and my kind of Democrat” as a potential Presidential contender.

Whatever one thinks about that idea, President Trump seems to have read the piece and tweeted:

“I am pleased that the president agrees that I’m doing a pretty good job and Rhode Island has had an economic turnaround, because we have,” Raimondo said to the Providence Journal.

Raimondo does owe Trump some measure of credit. She did, after all, copy his national level tax cuts for the rich into Rhode Island State law:

6. No Endless War or Excessive Militarism

No Endless War or Excessive Militarism (NEWEM) contributed this piece here, Activism for less war and militarism needs to continue in Rhode Island, as a break down of the excessive military budget our federal delegation seems eager to support.

They have a protest planned outside United States Representative James Langevin‘s office is at 300 Centerville Road in Warwick, Rhode Island on Wednesday, July 24th from 5:30 to 7pm.

7. Minimum Wage

As activists and this blog gear up to fight for a $15 minimum wage during next year’s legislative session, I though it might be a good time to reprint this piece I wrote in March 2015 about the empty threat of robots taking our jobs unless we continually sell our labor at ever cheaper rates.

8. Representative Rebecca Kislak

9. ACLU of Rhode Island

10. Bartholomewtown Podcast

11. ConvergenceRI

12. Picture of the Week:

Lights for Liberty

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