The Uprising, September 20, 2019

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“By rescheduling the meeting at the start of the Jewish Sabbath the members of the board showed disdain for our community…”

– Rabbi Michelle Dardashti

An early Uprising this week since I’ll be covering the Global Climate Strike in Providence all day. Enjoy!


1. The Wyatt

The Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation (CFDFC) board, which technically oversees the operation of the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, scheduled a hearing last Friday night on a forbearance agreement that would double down on the agreement between the prison and the United States Marshall Service to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees as part of President Donald Trump‘s zero-tolerance border policy.

CFDFC Board

The forbearance agreement would also allow the Wyatt to be sold to a for-profit prison company like CoreCivic, taking the prison out of public hands and tying Rhode Island to the whims of a corporation seeking to profit from Trump’s immigration policies.

“Under the agreement you are considering, your exclusive duty to the investors would mean that you couldn’t consider the morality of what happens here, what abuses ICE is committing,” said Roger Williams University Law Professor Jared Goldstein. “You would be required to hold people here, whether it’s to fulfill President Trump’s no-tolerance policy or Hitler’s Final Solution. If it would maximize the profits for investors to build gas chambers and crematoria here at Wyatt, this agreement would require you to build them. You would be forbidden to consider human rights or human suffering because morality has nothing to do with profits.”

But the CFDFC Board is under a lot of pressure to do something to satisfy the Wyatt bondholders, people who loaned the prison $130M and want to make a profit no matter what it takes. The Wyatt bondholders are suing the members of the CFDFC, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa and four members of the Central Falls City Council for the $130M.

This meeting was scheduled for Friday evening despite the fact that many of those protesting the prison are members of Never Again Action, a Jewish response against ICE and Trump’s deportation machine. Friday night is Shabbat, and whether by accident or design, scheduling the meeting on a Friday evening meant many people who would otherwise want to be present at the meeting would not be able to attend.

At Friday night’s hearing the board listened to public testimony until approximately the beginning of Shabbat, then a shofar was blown, and those in attendance rose en masse to sing and hold an impromptu Shabbat service, including bread and grape juice to substitute for wine.

As the CFCFC attempted to continue the meeting, it was impossible to hear them over the crowd. Eventually the board adjourned, after pantomiming through all the items on the agenda.

Was this a legal meeting? The board’s press secretary Chris Hunter says it was. “They went through the agenda and they adjourned the meeting,” said Hunter.

“Right, but nobody could hear the discussion, so it couldn’t have been considered a public meeting in any real way, could it?” I asked.

“The board made its way through the agenda, and the meeting was adjourned.” said Hunter.

“But no one knows what the board said,” I countered.

“You heard what I just told you,” said Hunter.

“You don’t think the Attorney General would think that was kind of a fake meeting?” I pushed.

“The board went through it’s agenda, adjourned,” repeated Hunter.

When the CFDFC Board reconvened on Monday night to vote on the forbearance agreement, those in attendance, mostly protesters from Never Again Action and AMOR, turned their backs on the board, then tearing cloth, a Jewish ritual of mourning. But they board surprised everyone by announcing that they were delaying the vote on the forbearance agreement until sometime after a meeting with the judge who who adjudicating the lawsuit being brought by the bondholders.

The meeting with the Judge presumably took place on Tuesday, but the fallout has yet to be publicly revealed. For now, the fate of the Wyatt, like the fate of the 130 or so ICE detainees inside the for-profit prison, is in limbo.

2a. Woonsocket City Council

Recently elected Woonsocket City Councilor Alex Kithes got a pretty harrowing welcome from his fellow City Councilors at his first meeting Monday evening. As he promised during his campaign, Kithes introduced a resolution in opposition to White Nationalism. This was relatively innocuous resolution, which would have no legal power, but would be a public statement stating that the Woonsocket City Council condemns White Nationalism. As far as I could tell, it was very close in wording to the resolution against White Nationalism passed overwhelmingly in the Rhode Island Senate this year, (but not, tellingly, passed by the Rhode Island House of Representatives.)

I wrote what happened during the City Council meeting here:

City Councilor James Cournoyer led the attack on the resolution, and also made it clear that his attack was very personal as well, as he proceeded to rewrite Kithes’ proclamation to both blunt the force of it and embarrass the City’s newest Councilor.

Alex Kithes

Cournoyer, as you can read for yourself, only embarrassed himself. The first three rewritten parts of the resolution were framed as personal attacks on Kithes:

“WHEREAS Councilman Alexander Kithes seeks to use Woonsocket City Council Meetings as a forum to espouse and share his views and opinions regarding the views and opinions of others, as well as to engage in and facilitate virtue signaling, and,

“WHEREAS Councilman Kithes wishes to partake in what the majority o the City Council deems unfortunate, unproductive and destructive, the practice of identifying, categorizing, dividing, differentiating and referring to people by race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation , gender identity and other groupings, including the offensive use and embrace of such terms as ‘people of color,’ and,

“WHEREAS Councilman Kithes has requested the City Council i.e. the City’s legislative branch of government, pass a formal resolution denouncing the ideology of ‘White Supremacy’ defined by Councilman Kithes as ideology where white people believe they are superior to ‘people of color,’ notwithstanding the fact that to the knowledge of the City Council as a whole, there have been no instances of wherein any member of the City Council or any member of City Government has espoused, embraced, or otherwise practiced, advocated or supported an ideology of White Supremacy, and not withstanding that such a resolution is a dubious consequence in so much as it does not create, repeal, or request any law or legislation or otherwise direct or instruct tangible action other than expressing what the majority of the City Council believes is a statement of the obvious in connection with the ideology of White Supremacy.

Then three other City Councilors, including Council President Daniel Gendron and Council Vice President Jon Brien, joined Cournoyer in displaying incredible ignorance and insensitivity about race.

City Councilor John Ward went beyond simply insulting Kithes or being insensitive about race. Ward went ahead and practically invited White Supremacists to hold a rally in Woonsocket:

“…the reason I concern myself with free speech access is… one of the permits we approve is the use of City property. And a group, properly filling out an application and paying designated fees, no matter their point of view, political or otherwise, by complying with permitting requirements, must be allowed to use City property, on an equal footing with any other group,” said Ward. “And that’s where my argument lies about this. As an institutional elected body, we control those permits. And for us, just because we object as a body, and we can each, individually find them abhorrent and not worthy of a minute of our time, but as a collective body that has authority over the City’s properties, to put ourselves in the position of telling groups that they’re not welcome to use a public facility, like any other person of group is, I think is not within our proper authority.”

Here are some choice bits:

  • “…you refer to people as people of color. And you want to denounce White Nationalism and White Supremacy,” said Woonsocket City Councilor James Cournoyer. “What about Yellow Supremacy? And Green Supremacy? And Black Supremacy and Brown Supremacy and every other Supremacy?”
  • “…there’s no mention made in this resolution about the group called Antifa, the group that promotes violence,” said City Councilor John Ward, “because all they’ve done is combat and prevent the free expression of views espoused by the so-called alt-Right…”
  • “I’m color blind,” said Council President Daniel Gendron. “I go through life treating everybody equal. So I sometimes have trouble understanding prejudices and people acting in prejudiced ways…”
  • “I feel as though, when we look at pieces of legislation like the original piece of legislation we end up having to name everyone, so we have to name Antifa, Louis Farrakhan, PLO and Hezbollah and Hamas and every group that espouses hate,” said Council Vice President Brien.

This Woonsocket City Council meeting was bonkers. It felt like satire, but every word I wrote was as exact a quote as I could provide.

2b. Epic Theatre Company

Enter the Epic Theatre Company, whose Artistic Director, Kevin Broccoli, announced a dramatic reading of the Woonsocket City Council hearing on the resolution against White Supremacy.

“I have to say, it took me a few tries to get through the article, because I kept wanting to put my fist through the closest wall,” says Broccoli, “But when I finally did, I realized that what I was reading was actually a stunning piece of theater – and I don’t mean that in a good way.

“I also realized that – chances are – very few people were going to want to read the entire article and the amendment that was suggested.”

“That lead Epic to decided to do what we do best and take something from the page to the stage.

“That’s why on Sunday, September 29th at 4pm at Theater 82, located at 82 Rolfe Square, members of Epic Theatre Company and other guests will be performing that council meeting with all the absurdity it entails. We’ll even have a talkback after in case you feel like screaming into the void with us.”

3. Kennedy Plaza

The Kennedy Plaza redesign, which requires the bus hub to be broken up and scattered throughout downtown as well the building of an underground bus tunnel, was roundly criticized by the Rhode Island Transit Riders, an independent grassroots organization devoted to promoting public transportation in Rhode Island at a press conference on Thursday.

Calling the plan to build a tunnel, “virtually dead on arrival,” and “ridiculous,” RI Transit Rider’s coordinator Patricia Raub quipped that “one does not build a tunnel through the central plaza of a major city by simply using a Sharpie to draw a line on a map.”

The plan is also opposed by John Flaherty of GrowSmart RI and Peter Brussard, Chair of the Rhode Island Association of Railroad Passengers, among others.

The plan is supported by millionaire property developer Joseph Paolino and Governor Gina Raimondo, who only use public transportation for publicity stunts.

Also speaking at the press conference was UpriseRI contributor Barry Schiller, who wrote this piece earlier this week:

4. College Hill Independent

Some of the best investigative reporting in Rhode Island happens in the Metro section of the College Hill Independent. After a long summer without them, they’re back!

This week, we take a deep dive into the takeover of the Providence Schools, and how the voices of those most affected are being bypassed. Then, two shorter pieces on transportation, the first on the sad fate of the JUMP Bikes in Providence, the other on the fate of the 111-year-old Crook Point Bascule Bridge

For more great local reporting, check out Items 8-12 below.

5. Providence College

The Providence College Department of Elementary and Special Education (ESE) discriminates against students of color, denying many of them access to the major and contributing to the deficit of teachers of color in Providence and other Rhode Island school systems, says the Providence College Coalition Against Racism (PC-CAR).

The most recent graduating class, 2019, had two students of color in a graduating class of 53, a percentage of 3.8 percent. This percentage compares unfavorably to the 17.8 percent students of color at Providence College as a whole. There were only 4 students of color in a class of 59 (6.8 percent) in 2018 so the trend is in the wrong direction. The low graduation rate of students of color in the Elementary and Special Education Department contributes to the fact that only 23 percent of Providence schoolteachers are teachers of color in a system that enrolls 91 percent students of color. Only 11 percent of teachers statewide are teachers of color.

Dr Anthony Rodriguez

“My department, over many years, in a controlled, focused and deficit-oriented manner, removed people of color from the Elementary and Special Education program,” said Dr Anthony Rodriguez the Providence College professor who blew the whistle of the discrimination. “They have done so by creating arbitrary and biased assessments that have no grounding in empirical research. These assessments, policies, and practices have consistently, over time, disproportionately harmed Black and Latinx students. Under the guise that RIDE (Rhode Island Department of Education) required these barriers for licensure, the department had duped and misled our students.”

6. Lifespan

“Many, though not all, hospitals in Rhode Island take their patients to court over unpaid hospital bills. But three teaching hospitals affiliated with Brown UniversityRhode Island Hospital, The Miriam Hospital, and Newport Hospital – and operated by Lifespan, a nonprofit health system, sue patients the most,” writes Dr Luke Messac a historian and an emergency medicine resident doctor at Rhode Island Hospital.

Messac writes, “When hospitals sue patients, the relationship between doctor and patient is strained. Recently, a patient asked me how much her chest X-ray would cost. I always answer these questions honestly: ‘I have no idea.’ Doctors are trained to determine which tests and treatments are medically indicated, not to predict how much they will cost out-of-pocket for patients with various forms of insurance (or none). We already know low-income patients face too many barriers to the care they need. But since I learned my employer is particularly aggressive in pursuing unpaid bills, every conversation about costs fills me with nausea and shame.”

7. Nicholas Delmenico

Nicholas Delmenico announced his candidacy today for State Representative in RI House District 27 – West Warwick/Coventry/Warwick, calling his candidacy a referendum on the state of leadership in Rhode Island’s House of Representatives. The House District 27 seat is currently held by Patricia Serpa, a close ally to Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello.

How close?

“Representative Serpa and Speaker Mattiello participated in 844 floor votes together in 2017, and she voted the same as Mattiello 844 times,” says Delmenico.

Nicholas Delmenico

8. ACLU

9. The Bartholowmewtown Podcast

10. Brown Daily Herald

11. ConvergenceRI

12. Rhode Island Liberator

13. Picture of the Week

Arely Diaz and Catarina Lorenzo of AMOR

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About Steve Ahlquist 1078 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

3 Comments

  1. yes, lefty, you do love yourself.

    but you still get such a kick out of seeing yourself in print.

    final thought for this lustrous afternoon.

    Yo, Kraft got caught in the parlor.

    Someone call Ari Melber, please.

    There’s a guy who wants to do a Caught In The Parlor rap

    to be presented at Patriots’ Stadium–if, and only if, the Patriots make the playoffs–and they’ve behaved well.

    We suffer from low standards.

    That will, and should, change.

    • lefty has thought more about

      the soccer chant.

      Let’s have some good ones, like,

      (then tries to adopt a silly brogue, like)

      Thassa goe, lads! Thassa goe.

      You go on, lads.

      Do the laddies have the right to say, “Whoa.”

      “You’re cheering our youth?? … as they march by?? What the fuck’s up with that?”

      This is the republic, lad.

      New England.

      That’s where it began.

      the fusion of the

      sensibilities we call consciousness.

      Roger Williams is still so much worth our energies.

      To know him even a little bit is to understand that he is special.

  2. love your reporting, steve.

    hey, it’s leftyrite.

    i think that aaron regunberg is a man to watch.

    he’s brilliant–and he’s there.

    those of us analog people who still believe in all three commonly agreed upon dimensions

    think that people who show up and act well

    should get special consideration from the good folk in the bleacher seats,

    whatever their persuasion.

    Am surprised myself that i’m ambiguous about the

    Never Again messaging.

    it’s happening all over the world, just not on that barbaric scale.

    Besides, now that i’m older and have more responsibilities,

    i cannot afford to get crushed against a fence

    defending that message anymore.

    I don’t want to get hit by an angry person anymore,

    just to say something.

    i read you because you take conscience seriously. so do i.

    so much can be done with the right message (make that the righteous message.)

    you’re not supposed to begin with “don’t.”

    the message? Don’t Do This To Anyone.

    that’s the message.

    and also, i’m a grandfather,

    and, finally, Have you ever slept on a bruised rib?

Comments are closed.