First printed on the Providence DSA website. Reprinted with permission.
On Saturday, November 2nd, members of the Providence chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (ProvDSA) and the George Wiley Center marched to and picketed outside of the home of Governor Gina Raimondo in response to her lack of commitment to principles of climate justice.
Since we started our #NationalizeGrid campaign in the fall of 2017, ProvDSA has spent a lot of time in front of Rhode Island’s Public Utilities Commission. Whether it was fighting against National Grid’s rate increases, advocating for increased protections for lower-income customers, or fighting for increased transparency and public input in the regulatory process, the PUC has been at the center of our efforts.
After Governor Raimondo’s failed attempt to nominate Laura Olton as the new chairperson of the PUC, ProvDSA began drafting a letter to the Governor which included a set of policy positions and characteristics that we thought were needed in the next PUC chair. We hoped that this letter would start a conversation and greater public input on this important matter.
We were wrong. Instead of starting a conversation with us, the Governor’s office released a dismissive and blithe statement. Totaling just 51 words, the Governor’s response touted the supposed 700% increase in renewable energy in the state under her watch. The Governor’s dismissal of our wide array of concerns in favor of a reductive quip about privately owned renewable energy exemplified her commitment to capitalism with a green face rather than a holistic climate justice approach.
ProvDSA understood that we had to take the reins and force a conversation. So just as we had in June when the nomination of Ms. Olton was announced, a picketing of the Governor’s East Side residence was planned.
Marching from Hope High School, the crowd was significantly larger than our picket in June. Marching under the banner of “Ecosocialism or Extinction”, the group of ProvDSA and George Wiley Center members chanted together and interacted with confused residents along the protest path, handing out literature and discussing our reason for disrupting the quiet Saturday afternoon.
When the crowd reached the Governor’s home, she was not present. But just as happened in June, she arrived during our demonstration and quickly darted into the home while her driver/bodyguard kept a watchful eye on the crowd gathered across the street.
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Emboldened by the presence of our target, the crowd continued to chant and voice our demands. After a few minutes, the Governor emerged from her home with her young son and conferred with her driver, continuing to refuse to engage with us.
Understanding that the Governor would not be engaging in conversation, ProvDSA co-chair Will Speck delivered a statement which reiterated our reasons for appearing and our recommendations on the needed characteristics of the next PUC Chair. During this statement, two State Police SUVs arrived on scene.
Departing to chants of “We’ll be back”, the crowd then dispersed. We hope that our escalation is understood by the Governor and all statewide leaders. We will not be quiet, we will not leave them alone, and we will not respect the boundaries of “respectability politics” which they have set. We will go where we must in order to deliver our message.
We will continue organizing against green capitalism, and for a Green New Deal and ecosocialism within Rhode Island and around the world. A better world is possible, but we must fight for it.