Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising! August 16, 2019

Not a slow news week. Holy crap. 1a. The Pickup Truck People were expecting to be arrested during a peaceful protest outside the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, not run down by a pickup truck. But that’s what happened when Correctional Officer Thomas Woodward attempted to enter the employee parking lot at the Wyatt, which was being blocked by
Photo for The Uprising! August 16, 2019

Published on August 16, 2019
By Steve Ahlquist

Not a slow news week. Holy crap.

1a. The Pickup Truck

People were expecting to be arrested during a peaceful protest outside the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, not run down by a pickup truck. But that’s what happened when Correctional Officer Thomas Woodward attempted to enter the employee parking lot at the Wyatt, which was being blocked by maybe 30 of the 500 protesters due to the prison’s contract with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The protesters, organized by Never Again Providence, AMOR, The FANG Collective, PrSYM and more, sought highlight ICE’s inhumane treatment of immigrants here in Rhode Island and across the country, and “work to shut down ICE’s deportation machine for as long as possible.”

After Correctional Officer Thomas Woodworth ran his truck into protesters, sending four of them to the hospital, about a dozen moe correctional officers stormed out of the Wyatt and assaulted the protesters, ultimately spraying them with pepper spray. A 73-year old woman was taken to the hospital to be treated for the pepper spray.

Here’s my piece about the attack.

Former executive director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, Dr Michael Fine was on the scene, as was medical support from several people, including members of the John brown Gun Club. Roger Williams University Law Professor Jared Goldstein was sprayed in the face with pepper spry, but told by first responders that since he was still breathing, they had to see other victims of the attack first.

As author Walter Greatshell noted on Facebook, “Is there anything more cowardly than plowing into peaceful protesters with a truck? Except maybe spraying tear gas at people who have just been hit by a truck.”

Here’s some video:

1b. A Peaceful Protest

It began as a peaceful protest, with powerful speeches and a real commitment to changing our nation’s policies on immigration.

“Judaism teaches that our world is broken and that we human beings have a job to do: To be God’s partners in the repair of the world,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser. “It’s not an easy job and we’re not expected to finish it, but we are expected to do all that we can to make things right where they are wrong as witnesses to the inhumanity of our nation’s war against immigrants. It’s our obligation today to decry the way that the current administration’s policies are deeply morally broken.

“We are calling for an end to the roundups and the detentions that tree human beings like animals. We are calling for an end to the way that families are separated and children are traumatized. We call on our leaders to uphold the command to be a beacon of light to those in need, not a source of darkness and suffering. This is our sacred obligation. We are not just here today because we are angry, but by God we are angry, we are here because we have an obligation to Heaven and Earth to fix what our leaders have so badly broken. We shall not stand idly upon the blood that has been shed by immoral policies…”

Watch the entire protest, and all the video, here.

1c. Aftermath

After the attack, there was chaos, but there was also an immediate coming together as people ran to assist the injured. I spoke with Kimberly Dicupe, who was sprayed in the face with pepper spray.

“I was right there, it wasn’t like I was kicking the car or anything, I was just there and somebody just decided they’re going to pepper spray because they wanted to get him into the parking lot,” said Dicupe. “That’s what they came here for. They didn’t come here to protect protesters, that he nearly almost ran over. They didn’t come here to do that. They came here to force people to move out of the way so that he can get into this parking lot and continue the deportations and human abuses that are going on right here at this private facility, right here in Central Falls.”

Here’s more on the attack’s aftermath.

1d. Jackie

I interviewed Jackie, who was struck by the pickup truck.

“I was sitting on the ground, and I remember someone on my right started singing a Jewish prayer, and my partner, who is Jewish, turned to me and said, ‘I don’t know this one. I’m embarrassed to be Jewish,’ and we laughed. Everyone was laughing, and then I remember the truck came,” said Jackie.

“I was able to rollout of the way [of the tires] in time, and when I stood up the truck hit me, and I was thrown back,” continued Jackie. “It hit me almost in my thigh. I was holding my wrists out, to try to stop it, so it got my upper half, but it’s my legs that are injured from hitting the ground.

“The hospital said I had road rash and swelling and bruising and that the X-ray looked good.” At the hospital Jackie received “nonstop support” and got “a bunch of raised fists from nurses.”

1e. Remi, a street medic

“I noticed a black pick-up truck in front of the protesters at the employee lot. Suddenly, the vehicle accelerated towards Jewish protesters and there was screaming from the line where there were elderly as well as an individual in a wheelchair,” writes Remi. “As I ran over, it accelerated again and came to a stop, knocking several people to the ground. Protesters were shouting at the driver, now identified as Thomas Woodworth, a Captain at the Wyatt facility. He was seen speaking into a handheld radio and not acknowledging the people he had just run into only seconds prior.

“While marshals and organizers pushed to create separation from the vehicle, myself and other medics started seeking out anybody who was injured. There was an elderly individual on the ground as well as another person. Both were being tended to. Within minutes, dozens of corrections officers swarmed around the vehicle and began to shove people from in front of the truck. Without warning, they haphazardly deployed pepper spray, hitting over a dozen protesters as well as 4-6 officers. More screams.”

Read Remi’s account here.

1f. Opeds

The attack on protesters at the Wyatt stirred a lot of anger and prompted some to write opeds for UpriseRI:

1g. More on the Wyatt

Not enough? Here’s more on the Wyatt attack:

More on the history of the Wyatt:

Other recent Wyatt protests and articles:

1h. Justin Price

In 2017, Representative Justin Price (Republican, District 39, Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton) introduced a bill that would have provided “that a person driving an automobile who is exercising due care and injures another person who is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic in a public right-of-way shall be immune from civil liability for such injury.”

I wrote about Price’s bill on RI Future here.

“This stems back to 2014, when we had some protesters blocking 95 in Providence,” said Price by way of explanation, “It’s really a safety issue… During this protest I was stuck in traffic, I witnessed cars traveling south in a northbound lane, exiting on on-ramps, just because people are confused, scared… protests can very quickly become a riot, so people want to not be involved in that so if someone is demonstrating due care, they should be able to pass through… peaceful protests… peaceful protests should let people pass through and there would be no injuries… so I feel that this bill… people should be able to protest and also proceed, travel freely without any civil liability.”

Here’s Price arguing with Steve Brown, from the Rhode Island ACLU:

Just think: If this bill had passed, what Wyatt Correctional Officer Thomas Woodworth did would hardly be worthy on investigation…

1j. Heather Heyer

Two years and two days before Wyatt Correctional Officer Thomas Woodworth drove his car into a crowd outside the for-profit prison, Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist using his vehicle as a deadly weapon.

I’ve thought of her often since then.

Rest in power, Heather Heyer.

2a. WNRI’s John Dionne

“I would consider myself white nationalist,” said WNRI radio host John Dionne, a former Woonsocket City Councilmember, on the air, Monday. “I consider white nationalist as somebody that’s proud of being American, proud of our country’s heritage. That’s what a nationalist is. Proud of America.”

Dionne made those comments on the anniversary of the white nationalist Charlottesville protests. He was defending President Trump’s words and white nationalism in general.

Dionne later walked back his comments, on the air Tuesday and in a comment for the piece I wrote. He writes, “As a Trump supporter who calls himself a Nationalist, I mistakenly used white because I am white. I had no idea what it meant or it would not have been I said.”

The word Dionne was looking for is patriotism, not nationalism. But I’m not sure he understands the difference.

2b. Carlo Pisaturo

Not to be outdone, former Warwick City Councilmember and present member of the Warwick Sewer Authority Carlo Pisaturo told the Warwick Beacon that there’s no reason to respect the Native American remains and archeological artifacts known to be present near Tidewater Drive while digging new sewers.

“Forget all the stuff with the Indians and do it the conventional way,” Pisaturo said. “Pocahontas and Tonto have had their day. It’s over.”

What is it about former City Councilmembers and racism in this state?

2c. Roger Bouchard

The owner of WNRI, Roger Bouchard, says that what radio host John Dionne says on his radio show is of no concern to the station.

“There’s programming generated by our station, those programs where our employees are paid,” said Bouchard. “The other kind of programs that we have are – I guess you would call them syndicated, for lack of a better term – they are paid for.”

Dionne, as well as the better known right-wing shock jock John DePetro, both pay for their time on the air. What they say is on them, not the station.

“…once they buy the time, you’re not supposed to, as a licensee, censor it, except for the few and very minimal rules that the FCC has,” claims Bouchard. “You know, one of the things that would actually make me go into the studio and talk to John Dionne would be if he used a four letter word – there are like seven or eight four letter words. Even though it’s his show and we don’t interfere with the content, we can interfere with the content because he’s violating an FCC rule.”

But, not so fast, someone who works in radio tells me. (They can’t speak on the record for fear of losing their job.)

Roger Bouchard is the licensee, period. That means he is responsible. Well, okay, technically it’s “Bouchard Broadcasting, Inc.” According to the most recently-filed Ownership Report with the FCC, the ownership breakdown of Bouchard Broadcasting, Inc is as follows:

  • Richard Bouchard – 43 percent
  • Roger Bouchard – 29 percent
  • David St Onge = 14 percent
  • Roger Laliberte = 14 percent

If the FCC issues a “Notice of Apparent Liability” (e.g. you’re getting a fine) then those four people are who’re legally responsible to pay it, not John DePetro, and not John Dionne.

It does not matter in the slightest if DePetro or Dionne pay Bouchard for the airtime. Nor it is in the slightest like if CNN sells a commercial.

  1. The FCC regulates non-broadcast cable channels and broadcast AM/FM/TV under completely different rules, and
  2. The FCC regulates commercials differently from brokered airtime like DePetro and Dionne’s shows.

It’s either dangerously naive or maliciously disingenuous for Bouchard to try and weasel out of his responsibility here, my friend tells me The FCC never once has accepted “he was buying the airtime” as an excuse, and it’s been tried many times; often when a non-English-speaking format buys airtime on a station and then starts saying all sorts of stuff you can’t say on the air. Doesn’t matter what language it is or who says it, it’s the license-holder who’s responsible.

See also: Representative Joseph Almeida: WNRI’s Dionne Owes Minority Groups an Apology

3a. Trump’s immigration restrictions

Under Trump’s new immigration rules, people could be denied visas, green cards, and entry into the United States simply because they have received any one of a broad range of public benefits they are legally allowed to access, including health care, nutrition assistance, and housing assistance. The rule will likely take effect on or around October 15, 2019.

Local reactions were swift, and negative:

3b. Trump’s Title X restriction

Facing an HHS-imposed deadline of August 19, Planned Parenthood today informed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that unless it intervenes, Planned Parenthood entities who are Title X grantees, including Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE), will be forced out of the Title X program by next Monday, August 19 – a devastating outcome that places access to affordable birth control at risk for millions of people across the country. PPSNE has accepted Title X funds in Connecticut since the program’s inception in the 1970s, and 12 PPSNE health centers in Connecticut and Rhode Island serve more than 42,500 people each year who rely on Title X funding.

4. Rhode Island Veterans’ Home

Recent ProJo coverage of abuses at the Rhode Island Veterans’ Home did not dive nearly deep enough into what’s happening there, says Cynthia Owens who runs a pro bono law practice for military veterans.

The recent Providence Journal story, “which touched upon thefts occurring at the home, gave short shrift to ongoing complaints and incident reports of disturbing mistreatment to residents there, made over the course of years, as disclosed in public records provided to the Journal.”

Read the full piece here.

5. South Kingstown School Committee

In a unanimous 7-0 vote, the South Kingstown School Committee passed a resolution that not only supports immigrant, refugee and undocumented students and families, but also, in the words of committee member Sarah Markey, “condemns the inhumane actions that are being facilitated by ICE [United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement] through the detention of migrant children who’ve been separated from their families.”

“We saw what happened in Mississippi on the first day of school and how traumatic that can be,” said South Kingstown School Committee member Sarah Markey. “Immigration enforcement activities around a school district have a really negative impact on students and their families and the learning environment.”

Read the full story here.

6. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

As an aside, I was on Bill Bartholomew‘s show on Friday, as he filled in for Tara Granahan on WPRO. I talked about the Wyatt protest.

7. Convergence RI

8. A folk song about me, Steve Ahlquist:

I video the Empire Revue every month, and have been for years now. Recently they surprised and honored me by presenting a song about me. Thank you to everyone at the show. I was very touched. Here it is, enjoy:

9. Picture of the Week:

Four kids hanging out in the field next to the Wyatt, watching the protests as the sun sets…

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