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The Uprising! November 2, 2019



Welcome to The Uprising!, and to a whole new look to UpriseRI! As you can see, we’ve updated the look of the site, to make it less blog-y and more news-y. This isn’t our final form, but it’s close. Lot’s of tweaks to be made here and there, and feedback is welcome. As site designer Greg Brailsford notes, “Our primary focus was a better reader experience – we looked at everything from the topics our readers want to see to fonts that make articles easier to read. The end result is what you see here, sort of…. we’re not finished.” A big thank you to Greg!

So stick around, our best is yet to come.

1a. The Wyatt

On Wednesday the the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation (CFDFC or Wyatt Board), under the leadership of newly elected Chair James Lombardi III, voted to approve a forbearance agreement with the facility’s bond holders that will have far reaching consequences for the future of the Wyatt Detention Facility.

The forbearance agreement, approved by all four members of the Board, prevents the Wyatt from terminating its agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), establishes a process should the bondholders decide to sell the facility, denies the City of Central Falls any meaningful role in the oversight or management of the facility, and re-emphasizes the board’s obligation to maximize value to bondholders over any of its obligations to the people of Central Falls or Rhode Island.

In other word, the Wyatt Board effectively ceded control of the Wyatt to bondholders represented by UMB Bank in Missouri, who invested heavily in the prison and expected to make a hefty profit. This begs the question, if the Wyatt is expected to pay off investors and be, in the words of Chair Lombardi, an “economic generator for Central Falls and the State of Rhode Island,” in what sense is the prison a non-profit?

Can we please ask a favor?

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My answer: Semantically.

Supporters of the prison say the Wyatt Detention Facility is a “non-profit, quasi-public facility created by Statute” which is just fancy words that hide a darker reality: We are housing ICE detainees, some of whom are not accused of any crimes but merely thought to be witnesses to possible crimes, to make money.

Never Again Action and AMOR (Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance) tried to appeal to whatever human decency the members of the board may possess, without success.

“Many of the things that people are here to object to are beyond our control and although we want to hear your objections, there is nothing we can do to change federal immigration policy or the federal court order we are subject to,” said Lombardi, echoing the sentiments that have led good people to do terrible things throughout human history.

I had no choice. I was just following orders. It was them or me.

“This agreement makes clear that the only interest of the Wyatt and its board is to promote the financial interests of out-of-state investors,” said Jared Goldstein, a professor of law at Roger Williams University. “The Wyatt can’t consider the morality or abusive nature of immigrant detention. It doesn’t matter what ICE is doing. It doesn’t matter that they’re separating children from their parents or holding children in cages. If it makes money for the bondholders, the Wyatt board has just agreed that they have to do it.

Wyatt Board Chair James Lombardi III

1b. Kemper

The Kemper Museum in Kansas City, Missouri has been targeted by The FANG Collective and other activist groups over their connection to UMB Bank.

UMB Bank represents the bondholders of the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island. After the Facility agreed to end their contract with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), UMB Bank sued Central Falls elected officials and the Wyatt’s Board of Directors to force the Facility to continue to hold people detained by ICE.

Several UMB Bank officials sit on the Board of The Kemper Museum, including UMB Bank CEO Mariner Kemper, whose parents founded the museum.

An anonymous worker at The Kemper Museum writes,

“Since August 15th, I have not felt comfortable or safe at work due to the ongoing efforts of the museum board, executive staff members, and administration staff to diminish and inaccurately report to the public and to the museum staff on The Kemper Museum’s connections to UMB Bank, after reports of UMB Bank’s affiliations with the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island surfaced.

Continue reading here.

(c)2019 Carmen Moreno

1c. Voices of Immigration

Barrington Interfaith Partners presented “Voices of Immigration: A discussion of US immigration policy and the experience of two immigrants” a week ago at St John’s Episcopal Church in Barrington. The program featured National Immigration Activist and leader of Rhode Island’s #FreeLilian campaign Gabriela Domenzain, Lilian Calderon, a Rhode Island mother who faced deportation after being detained for a month by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Rodrigo Pimentel, a DACA recipient and DREAMer.

You can see all the video here.

Lillian Calderon

2a. More fossil fuel infrastructure?

The Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC) released the results of a months long investigation into a week long shut down of gas service to Newport and Middletown on Aquidneck Island following a “low-pressure” event.

The lack of gas or capacity was not listed as a reason for the outage. In fact, on page 156 of the appendix to the report, in a letter from Terrence Sobolewski, Chief Customer Officer and National Grid, to Kevin Lynch, Deputy Administrator RI DPUC, Sobolewski says, “First, this will confirm that National Grid has sufficient pipeline capacity in its portfolio to meet the Company’s load requirements for Aquidneck Island this winter.”

Why then, nestled among the recommendations from DPUC to avoid future outages of his kind, is there a call for more expanding gas pipeline capacity by a factor of five?

I can think of one reason: More ratepayer money for National Grid so they can double down on fossil fuels as the world threatens to burn due to climate change. Only a multi-billion dollar company like National Grid can cause a mini disaster, and still turn it into a way to make more money.

2b. Janie’s Story

What if Invenergy were successful in building their $1B fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the northwest corner of Rhode Island? Would Burrillville be like Byesville, Ohio, where, within a span of one day, beautiful farmland has become a hazardous construction site.

Byesville resident Janie Moore has a home right next to the new power plant. Construction of the plant is destroying the value of her home, and threatening the health and safety of her family, including her young daughter.

It’s a real life horror story, and it could still happen here. Thank you to Stephanie Sloman for bringing this story to UpriseRI.

“…Janie took her daughter to the pediatrician due to acute respiratory problems. The doctor ordered X-rays after listening to her daughter’s lungs and hearing about the power plant’s close proximity to her home and the silica dust emissions. After the X-rays were taken, the pediatrician found a “spot” on a lobe of her daughter’s lungs. The doctor has an appointment for Janie’s daughter to see a pulmonary specialist. Janie is afraid of what that spot is. She is a wreck.”

Janie’s three-year-old daughter in the car, driving to the pediatrician

2c. Nature’s Trust

After more than a year of delays, it seemed that the Nature’s Trust RI lawsuit had finally landed on the desk of a Superior Court Judge willing to actually hear the case. But on Monday morning, Judge Melissa Darigan, who Governor Gina Raimondo appointed to the bench last December, a month after the Nature’s Trust lawsuit was filed, further delayed the hearing over concerns about “subject matter jurisdiction.”

The Nature’s Trust lawsuit was brought because according to Rhode Island law, it is the responsibility of the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to maintain a healthy environment for the citizens of the state. The climate is changing rapidly for the worse, but DEM, ignoring its legal duties, has no plan to track and reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Nature’s Trust RI, on behalf of 13 young people and three organizations, filed a citizen’s petition with DEM in September 2018. The petition included a plan to get the DEM to live up to its responsibilities. A month later, DEM rejected the plan. According to Nature’s Trust RI, DEM provided no credible justification other than writing that the requested actions were unprecedented. Days after DEM’s denial, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a Special Report stating that unprecedented global action was required to avoid a climate catastrophe.The following month, November 2018, Nature’s Trust RI filed a lawsuit against DEM in Superior Court in Providence.

“The judge’s decision is not entirely unexpected in the sense that whether or not the court can hear the case at all has been pending since the beginning,” said Peter Galvin, who, with Alyson Quay, is an attorney for Nature’s Trust RI. “But DEM has never brought it up. in fact, DEM has sort of taken the position that they the court can hear this appeal. That this is the only way to review their decision.”

Plaintiffs Chloe Moers and Carmen Boyan

2d. Kennedy Plaza

Public transportation advocate Barry Schiller asks, What’s going on in Kennedy Plaza?

We’d all benefit by this approach, embracing, instead of rejecting transit. It could improve mobility, help attract progressive entrepreneurs who value good transit, reduce congestion, enhance safety, help keep our energy dollars in the state’s economy, and support the fight against climate change.”

3a. Achievement First

State Senator Sam Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) recently toured Achievement First, a charter school in Providence. He was, to put it mildly, not impressed.

The teachers spewed a stream of punishments, and I often couldn’t even see what the students were doing wrong,” writes Bell. “The students kept losing points or getting yelled at for things like not looking attentive enough. I can’t imagine what it would be like as a child to be berated constantly, to be forced to never even think of challenging authority. It was, of course, overwhelmingly white teachers berating students of color. (The walls, of course, were plastered with slogans of racial justice.)

3b. Dan McKee is out of ideas

Providence Public Schools parent Tom Hoffman responds to an oped from Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee published in the Providence Journal. Hoffman found the oped to be full of empty, outdated and already failed ideas.

The biggest problem with McKee’s proposal is that he simply does not understand to what extent his perspective on education and school choice has both carried the day and rendered this proposal irrelevant in many if not most communities. We have been rating schools and mailing warnings to parents since the launch of No Child Left Behind almost 20 years ago,” writes Hoffman.

3c. Providence Public School Advocates have demands…

3d. Barrington School District is “outrageous and shameful”

In what the ACLU of Rhode Island calls an “outrageous and shameful” attack on one of its own students, the Barrington School Committee has filed a lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court against a middle school student who successfully challenged before the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) his three-day out-of-school suspension. In seeking to overturn RIDE’s decision, the school committee is demanding a recovery of its attorneys’ fees against the student and RIDE.

Earlier this year, RIDE determined that the school district had improperly issued the suspension based on a school lunchroom conversation the student participated in. Barrington then appealed the decision to the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education (CESE), and the ACLU represented the student in that appeal. Affirming RIDE’s decision, CESE found no evidence that the conversation – prompted by a recent school shooting – was disruptive, a general requirement for out-of-school suspensions. In so ruling, both the RIDE and CESE decisions enforced a 2016 state law enacted to stem the harm caused by unnecessary out-of-school suspensions.

4. John Brown Gun Club

The John Brown Gun Club, a community defense group, organized a Free Store in Burnside Park in downtown Providence Saturday afternoon. Well over 100 people were allowed to take take food, clothing and other things, for free over the hour or so they were open.

“This is part of the John Brown Gun Club ethos,” said Etienne, explaining the idea to me. “As a community defense group we first and foremost believe that communities should organize to defend themselves against all threats, including poverty and homelessness.

“One of the things that we believe in is the use of mutual aid, or community relief. We do a weekly walkabout in Providence and we have smaller things that we carry with us like blankets, hand warmers and hot soup. It was every Tuesday when it’s warmer out, but now we’re going to switch to the coldest night of the week.”

This story hit a lot of people in different ways and stirred an online discussion about community defense and the place of guns in our society. Two people were so upset with this story that they stopped financially supporting this site. That won’t deter the kind of coverage UpriseRI provides.

5. Protect All Children Act

Previously in Rhode Island, domestic violence protective orders sought in Family Court covered only the common children of the plaintiff and the defendant. In order to also protect children who are not related to the defendant by blood or marriage, the plaintiff had to get a separate order in District or Superior Court. When Governor Gina Raimondo signed the “Protect All Children Act” earlier this year, that changed. Now, domestic violence protective orders sought in Family Court will include any children of the plaintiff who aren’t related to the defendant.

Speaking at a ceremonial signing event at the Rhode Island State House, Kristi Di Cenzo, said when trying to file a restraining order for herself and her children, she needed a separate restraining order – which required paying a fee of about $150 – because not all of her children were biologically related to her abuser.

“The way the statute was written, it added another barrier to leaving an abusive relationship… I was afraid for my children’s safety and my own,” said Di Cenzo. “All children deserve equal protection.”

Video here.

6. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

7. ConvergenceRI

Richard Asinof, editor of ConvergenceRI, will be honored with an award from the Childhood Lead Action Project on Thursday evening, November 14. Also being honored are United States Senator Jack Reed (Democrat, Rhode Island), Maria Cristina Betancur. Details here: Strike Out Lead Poisoning! A Benefit for Childhood Lead Action

8. ecoRI

9. Providence Daily Dose

10. Providence Journal

11. Picture of the Week:

Never Again Action turns their back as the Wyatt Board cedes control to bondholders.

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