The Uprising! September 6, 2019

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“Here’s the upshot,” writes Andy Boardman. “There is no discernible exodus of high-income Rhode Islanders. On average, households moving out of Rhode Island are poorer, not richer, than households that stay put.”

With all that’s going on in Rhode Island, the question you might ask is, Why are you spending so much time in Boston this week, Steve, which is definitely not part of the state in the title of this news site?

Sometimes I follow tangents. Boston’s so-called “straight pride” parade for instance, was organized by the same people who twice brought fascism and violence to the Rhode Island State House lawn, so it seemed smart to cover what was going on up there. The Never Again Action march from the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston to Amazon HQ in Cambridge was explicitly related to the events at the Wyatt where a correctional officer drove his car into a group of seated protesters, by one of the events organizers.

These events, the violence of the Boston Police at the “straight pride” parade and the actions of the correctional officer at the Wyatt are related, because you can’t push against a violent, profitable system without that system pushing back, hard.

1. “Straight Pride”

People from all over Massachusetts and Rhode Island made the trek to Boston last Saturday to counter protest the neo-fascist “straight pride” Parade organized by the same people who have organized ultra-right wing, fascist events in both Boston and Providence in the past. For instance:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Boston Police reacted to the counter protesters with bullying and violence, by instigating fights and assaulting people, and doing so in the service of white supremacists. I have video of some of that here, along with my first hand account. I have another first hand account here, by Remi, a street medic.

“When medics rushed to help people who were pepper sprayed or injured, the police targeted us,” writes Remi. “They would rush forward to pepper spray the medics or attempt to arrest them. Or they would attack people who were already incapacitated and unable to move on their own.”

36 people were arrested, and held until Tuesday morning, when things got really weird.

When the Suffolk County Prosecutors tried to dismiss the cases against some of the protesters, Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard Sinnott denied their motions, something the National Lawyer’s Guild (NLG) described as a “gross violation of the separation of powers and has the impact of obstructing the policy priorities of Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins‘ Administration.”

Then, to make matters worse, Sinnott jailed defense attorney Susan Church as she attempted to advocate for her client by raising these separation of powers arguments.”

According to MassLive.com:

The Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers called Sinnott’s actions “a gross abuse of power” and called for a formal investigation by the Administration of the Trial Court and the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct.

“Judge Sinnott’s actions constitute egregious judicial misconduct, demonstrate a lack of proper temperament and violated the constitutional and statutory rights of both the accused and attorney Church,” a statement issued by the association said.

Here’s all of the “straight pride” coverage from UpriseRI:

Straight Pride is Trump Pride

2. Kemper Museum

Even further away from Rhode Island than Boston, but just as relevant, is a protest that took place last Sunday outside the Kemper Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. There, about 40-50 people protested the museum’s ties to the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, Rhode Island.

The Kemper Museum was founded by the parents of Mariner Kemper, CEO of UMB Bank and a trustee of the museum. UMB Bank is representing the bondholders in a lawsuit against the City of Central Falls and the Wyatt Detention Center Board over their attempt to stop a contract between the for-profit prison and the United States Marshall Service to hold United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees at the facility.

The bondholders and UMB Bank want their $130 million dollar investment in the Wyatt to pay off, no matter the cost in human misery. These people who Mariner Kemper represents as CEO of UMB Bank, thought investing in a concentration camp was a good idea, and are willing to sue elected officials to make that happen.

“We wanted to put together something really quick to inform our community about what’s happening in Rhode Island,” said one of the four organizers, Alex Martinez, the director of the Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance, by phone. “We wanted to make it clear that the artists that are currently collaborating with Kemper and even artists that work at Kemper that they can make the decision to stand on the right side and protest as well.

“When we had the protest they could have walked out, show their support and not stand for family separation. We’re asking folks to join us in that.”

(c)2019 Carmen Moreno, one of the protest organizers

Further reading: How Far Will Artists Go to Stop Toxic Philanthropy?

3. Never Again

About a thousand people marched from the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston to the Amazon HQ in Cambridge Thursday evening to protest Amazon’s continuing support of ICE and President Donald Trump‘s immigration policies and concentration camps. The event was organized by Never Again Action which has been staging protests across the country to oppose the same rise in fascism here today as was seen in 1930s Germany under Hitler.

12 people were arrested in Amazon’s lobby as they refused to leave. Happily, these protesters were treated much better than those who counter protested the “straight pride” parade last Saturday. See:

Those interested in learning about Amazon’s ties to ICE are encouraged to read: Who’s Behind ICE?: The Tech Companies Fueling Deportations

4. Rhode Island’s lingering lead problem

UpriseRI is proud to reprint an exceptional piece of investigative reporting by Julia Rock, which first appeared on MuckRock.com, here.

“Of kindergarteners entering school in Rhode Island this fall, nearly seven percent have tested positive for blood lead levels sufficient to trigger a public health response, according to data collected by the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH).

In the City of Providence, that estimate is closer to 10 percent.

These data put Rhode Island at twice the national average for rates of lead poisoning, but both officials at the DOH and advocates at community organizations believe that the numbers are marked progress over previous testing levels. In 2001, an estimated 55 percent of new Rhode Island kindergartners tested positive for dangerous levels of blood lead.

5. Providence Journal

Gatehouse Media, the parent company of the Providence Journal, is not negotiating fairly with the Teamsters they employ at their production facility, said picketers outside the facility on Wednesday.

The Teamsters maintain that since taking over the Providence Journal in September 2014, parent company Gatehouse Media has:

  • Violated Rhode Island state wage laws;
  • Refused to hire full-time workers;
  • Used non-union temporary workers to deprive union workers of work opportunities;
  • Refused to recognize seniority for work assignments;
  • Refused to bargain wage or benefit increases, even though the company admits the operation is profitable;
  • Admits that the workforce has high turnover because wages are too low (and that’s how they like it!);
  • Has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses and stock options to Gatehouse Media CEO, Kirk Davis, while demanding “shared sacrifice” (wage freezes) from Providence Journal workers, in order to increase the employer’s profits;

Workers are demanding a fair contract.

A greedy pig, representing Gatehouse Media.

6. No, the rich aren’t fleeing Rhode Island

And Andy Boardman has the data to prove it.

There is a movement in Rhode Island to do away with the inheritance tax, also called the death tax, which is essentially a tax on dead millionaires. The claim is that taxes in Rhode Island make the rich leave our state to escape high taxes. The truth?

“Here’s the upshot,” writes Andy Boardman. “There is no discernible exodus of high-income Rhode Islanders. On average, households moving out of Rhode Island are poorer, not richer, than households that stay put.”

You can bet those representing the interests of the moneyed elites in Rhode Island will object. In fact, they already have. Gary Sasse, presenting no evidence of his own, immediately tweeted:

7. Cranston Renewable Energy Utility

“Imagine,” said Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America State Coordinator Nate Carpenter, “what the economic impact would be if Rhode Island could keep a minimum of $3B in our state every year. What if we could keep $6B in state? All while properly addressing climate change.”

To that end, Ocean State Community Energy has started work on a first-of-its-kind blueprint for a solar, tidal, and onshore wind utility in Cranston, Rhode Island.

The plan will take eight weeks to finish and will be completed by November 1. The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America (RIPDA) are funding the plan which will cost $26,000.

8. Zachary Colón

Zachary Colón has announced his candidacy for Warwick City Council Ward 9

9. Rhode Island Department of Education

A group of high school students and Providence parents on behalf of their children filed a motion on Wednesday with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) demanding that a clear plan for the district be shared with the public before it is implemented. Parents and students were joined by representatives of several organizations that serve Providence youth, including Youth in Action (YIA), Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE), and Providence Student Union (PSU). 

The group, represented by the Rhode Island Center for Justice, is asking the Commissioner of Education to ensure that there is a formal role for parents and students to preview and weigh in on the plan for improving the city’s schools, the leaders who will implement it, and the goals, progress and criteria for success for the plan.

10. Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence

The RICAGV points out that Walmart has now moved faster than state and federal legislators to curb gun violence…

11. Nature’s Trust

A new judge has taken over the litigation brought by Nature’s Trust, parents and children trying to compel the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to take climate change seriously.

12. Vietnam’s National Day

Jerry Elmer ruminates on Vietnam’s National Day, that country’s version of our Independent Day.

13. Convergence RI

The issue is still UHIP, says Scott Fraser, president and CEO of RIHCA: As of Aug. 28, there were 1,228 Medicaid eligibility applications for long-term services and supports pending for longer than 90 days…

14. eco RI

Is Proposed Battery-Storage Project a Power Plant?

15. The Public’s Radio

16. Picture of the week:

Fans of Captain Marvel at the Never Again protest in Boston on Thursday

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About Steve Ahlquist 1058 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

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