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The Uprising! October 11, 2019



So I totally missed doing my weekly Uprising! update last week because of the TEDx Talk I did on Saturday. I loved the experience of doing a TEDx Talk, but it was a lot of work memorizing and practicing. Every minute I wasn’t working on this site I spent practicing and memorizing.

In the end, it went well. At least I think it did – I barely remember any of it. It will be online sometime in mid-November, and I’ll share it then. In the meantime, let’s see what’s been going on in this weeks news…

1. Election results

There were elections held this week in Westerly, Tiverton and Providence, Ward 10.

In Westerly, voters responded to four questions, approving two and rejecting two. According to the Westerly Sun, voters rejected a “proposed school building project that called for borrowing up to $71.4 million to build a new elementary school, renovate two other elementary schools and improve Westerly High and Westerly Middle School.”

Voters also rejected eliminating term limits for town council members.

Can we please ask a favor?

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Westerly voters approved moving “the date of submission for the proposed municipal budget from the town manager to the finance board to the third Monday in March from the the third Monday in February” and changing “the date for submission of the proposed education budget by the superintendent of schools to the municipal finance director from no later than the first Monday in February to the first Monday in March.”

In a Democratic Primary for Providence City Council in Ward 10, Pedro Espinal defeated Monica Huertas, Orlando Correa and Natalia Rosa Sosa in a low turnout race in which less than 900 people voted. Espinal must next face Jeffrey Lemire in a General election on November 5 and seems likely to prevail.

Finally, in Tiverton, Town Council President Robert Coulter and Vice President Justin Katz were overwhelmingly recalled in the town’s first ever recall election. According to, “The final vote tallies, including 148 mail ballots, are as follows: 1,594 to recall Coulter to 75 against; 1,589 to recall Katz against 80 against.” Justin Katz writes for the Ocean State Current, a right-wing political blog and works for the right wing “think tank” the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

By law, the next highest vote getters in the most recent town council election will replace them.

2a. Wyatt

The Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation (CFDFC) which controls the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, has violated the Open Meetings Act (OMA) for a second time, and violated the Access to Public Meetings Act (APRA) when they denied UpriseRI and this reporter data on ICE detainees, says the office of Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha.

The Wyatt Board violated the OMA by not properly announcing their intent to make important votes at an emergency meeting scheduled for 9am on a Sunday morning. This is the second violation by the Wyatt Board this year.

The Wyatt Board violated the APRA by not handing over information about ICE detainees being held at the Wyatt. The Wyatt has until next Friday to comply wit the AG’s order to turn over the requested information. I expect an appeal, or more trouble from the Wyatt Board on filling this request, but perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

2b. Wyatt and Gina Raimondo

Members of Never Again Action Rhode Island gathered at the State House on Monday to demand action from Governor Gina Raimondo and the General Assembly to close the Wyatt Detention Facility and end state and local collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The protest came the day before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, which is the end of the Jewish High Holidays, a time when Jews are called to reflect on the past year, seek forgiveness for actions that have harmed others, and remember those who have died.

Never Again Action is demanding that Governor Raimondo publicly respond to their demands by Sukkot, an eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the ancient migration of the Jewish people as they fled Egyptian slavery. Sukkot begins on the evening of Oct. 13.

“We have spent the last three months inviting, asking, even begging Governor Raimondo to join our fight to shut down the Wyatt, ban private prisons, and end local and state collaboration with ICE,” said Never Again Action organizer Aaron Regunberg. “This isn’t a game. People are being hurt, and they don’t have any more time to wait for our leaders to grow a backbone. Next week is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. We are giving the Governor until then to take action to join our fight. Otherwise—just as we would have wanted people to do during past moments of state-sponsored violence against our communities—we will be coming back here, louder and stronger than ever.”

3. Decorum Ordinances

Whenever a politician talks about the so-called “silent majority” you know something’s up. The term, popularized by Richard Nixon, was referring to “blue collar white people who did not take an active part in politics: suburban, exurban and rural middle class voters.”

So when Narragansett Town Council President Pro-Tem Jill Lawler used the term while introducing a resolution to craft an ordinance that would enforce some sort of “decorum” on people publicly speaking before the the Town Council, my ears perked up.

“…what this is going to do is create a climate that will be a civil climate so that people can come up who maybe speak and offer a different opinion,” said Lawler. “It’s been very difficult for people to do that. The silent majority that has been talked about often does not show up at these meetings because they do not want to be ridiculed.”

Narragansett has been split over a proposed library, approved by voters, that the new Town Council majority opposes. Discussions have been heated at times, but is being passionate about an issue, and bringing emotional heat to a town council meeting something that can be legislated? Or is this simply an assault on free speech and the First Amendment?

The Town Council voted the resolution down on a vote of 3-1, but the ordinance this idea was based on was passed by the Exeter Town Council a month ago…

4a. Hunger

Results from the 2019 Hunger Survey are not pretty.

“The results of the survey provide a portrait of the people served by the Food Bank,” said Rhode Island Community Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff. “They’re children, seniors, and the working poor. They live in poverty, face hardships, and make difficult financial choices, and they suffer from poor health. Many are enrolled in SNAP, but they also rely on food pantries and meal programs because SNAP benefit alone are not adequate.”

Full coverage here.

4b. Housing

4c. Utilities

In what has become an annual tradition, the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today approved emergency rules for utility restoration at the request of the George Wiley Center. According to the Center, “[t]housands of Rhode Islanders have been shut off and cannot afford high down payments to get service restored.”

The new, temporary rules will help thousands of Rhode Islanders suffering utility shutoffs.

4d. Public Utilities Commission

A coalition of local grassroots organizations and Rhode Islanders calls on Governor Gina Raimondo to appoint a new Public Utilities Commission Chair who will support a just transition away from fossil fuels…

4e. Lead

5. Guns

A candlelight vigil was held in Providence on Detroit Avenue Sunday evening for Berta Perreira-Roldan, a Revere, Massachusetts resident killed in Providence one week earlier after celebrating her 19th birthday at a local nightclub. The vigil was organized by Providence City Councilor Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), State Senator Ana Quezada (Democrat, District 2, Providence) and State Representative Grace Diaz (Democrat, District 11, Providence).

6. Education

Harry Tuttle speculates as to why the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) is so late in releasing the results of RICAS.

“RIDE almost certainly knew that some of their desired ‘persistently low-performing schools were inconveniently improving without their intervention,” says Tuttle, “and rushed to create a crisis before the new scores were released to the public. RIDE has a track record on this, and it is not good.”

7. Providence Journal

The Providence Journal has requested to not have to pay overtime to employees for work performed on Sundays and Rhode Island state holidays, say Teamsters Local 251. There will be a public hearing on October 17 with the state’s Department of Labor and Training.

“A company with a track record of violating state law for four years, and hiring low wage, no benefit part timers, does not deserve public sympathy,” said David Robbins, Local 251 Contract Coordinator. “Gatehouse Media paid three years in back overtime pay when they were caught, while denying to pay the fourth year because the law only covers three years. They lied claiming they had an exemption and lied to the Department of Labor and Training in claiming innocence and hardship for the exemption.”

See also:

8. Suppressing non-violent protest

Professor Peter Nightingale tackles this issue in Activists, Physicists and Traffic Flow


10. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

11. The College Hill Independent

12. ConvergenceRI

13. Picture 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 half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.

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