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The Uprising! November 15, 2019



Welcome to The Uprising!

1a. Gina Raimondo and Climate Change

“I’m as worried about climate change as you are,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to members of the Sunrise Movement who were disrupting a Boston Globe forum about the future of Rhode Island she was featured on. Maybe the Governor is worried, but the young people who make up the growing movement to actually do something about the problem don’t seem to be buying it.

Maybe that’s because Raimondo has consistently disregarded the concerns of the Sunrise Movement. She refused to meet them during two State House visits in August and September of this year, passed them by when Sunrise protested a fundraiser held for her by Adler, Pollock and Sheehan, the lawyers who represented Invenergy‘s failed bid to build a $1B fracked gas and diesel oil building power plant that she supported until the end, ignored them during a fundraiser held during her re-election campaign, and simply dismisses them or laughs when they ask her to pledge to not take money from fossil fuel executives.

1b. “How can you talk about the future, when it’s not obvious that we have one?”

The Boston Globe forum, hosted by reporter Dan McGowan, was also problematic. Ostensibly about Rhode Island’s future, the topics under discussion were transit, health care and higher education.

“It is disgraceful for you to talk about the future of Rhode Island and to not mention climate change,” said Sunrise member Rachael Baker. “As young people, we are afraid of the future in this state. The climate crisis is threatening our homes and our health. And the institutions that we have in place are failing us. We need every sector of society, from universities to hospitals to mobilize on this crisis.”

1c. Providence chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America

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The Sunrise Movement isn’t the only group unhappy with Raimondo’s work on climate change.

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 what they called “her lack of commitment to principles of climate justice.”

2a. Peter Neronha

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha took some time to explain himself Monday night about his decision to not indict Wyatt Correctional Facility officers who assaulted peaceful protesters in August. One guard drove his truck into people seated in a crosswalk, injuring several, before a dozen more prison guards arrived on the scene and began strong arming and pepper spraying people.

Neronha was being interviewed at the 49th Annual Meeting of Common Cause Rhode Island by NBC10‘s Katie Davis.

Instead of indicting, Neronha sent the evidence to a grand jury, which failed to indict. Victims of the assaults cried foul. They said that Neronha’s prosecutors turned the evidence on it’s head, and made it about the peaceful protesters, not about the behavior of the guards.

“I will say this,” said Neronha, “there’s been a narrative that the prosecutors had an agenda in that grand jury. I can tell you that that is not the case. I put our best people on that case. I wrote the jury instruction on assault myself because I wanted to make sure that we had the law right.”

Neronha had heard that “that some of the protesters were concerned about the questions they were being asked, questions about what they were doing when pepper spray was deployed. And I don’t know what the grand jurors were thinking as those questions were asked but I’m pretty sure I know why those questions were being asked.”

You can watch the full interview and read a synopsis of what was discussed here.

2b. Citizen’s Bank

On Thursday Never Again Action joined the Families Belong Together coalition to deliver a petition with over 70,000 signatures to Citizens Bank demanding an end to its financing of private prisons and private detention centers. Citizens is one of the last big banks still sponsoring for profit prisons.

“The access to capital that Citizens is providing companies like CoreCivic and GEO Group allows them to expand their networks across the country,” said Aaron Regunberg, a member of Never Again Action. “This kind of investment is what makes it possible for a prison corporation to purchase the ICE detention center at the Wyatt prison in Central Falls, which Rhode Islanders have been fighting to shut down.”

2c. Central Falls

On Wednesday evening the Central Falls City Council unanimously passed the “Community Policing and Immigration” ordinance that codifies policies that protect immigrants from federal immigration agents and prevents local police from collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The legislation was submitted by City Councilmember Jessica Vega.

“The reason why it’s so important that we codify this into law is that we want to send a clear message that our local law enforcement isn’t going to be collaborating with ICE and more importantly to make people feel more comfortable and have a sense of belonging in this community,” said Vega. “No one should feel that they can’t call the police because they fear that they might be deported.”

3. Rhode Island’s Economic Development Plan

Rhode Island is in the midst of updating its economic development plan, and the $750k cost is being partially covered by business lobbyists like the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce (GPCC) and the Partnership for Rhode Island. This is a problem, says Rhode Island State Senator Senator Samuel Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence), the only elected official in Rhode Island attending a preview of the plan at the offices of the GPCC.

“As a State Senator, if I took hundreds of thousands of dollars in private money, especially from interested parties, to develop policy, it would be illegal,” said Bell. “Now, because policy making has been privatized here, the code of ethics does not apply. But I submit that the same principle does.”

Bruce Katz, who is authoring the revision, took umbrage at Bell’s accusation. “I am offended if you think that any investment in work I do has any effect on my ultimate conclusions and findings,” said Katz. “I’ve been working in this field for 35 years, and I will stand by everything that I’ve done. So do not make an accusation like that without any evidence whatsoever.”

The problem is, there’s plenty of evidence that economists are influenced by the opinions and values of the people paying them to do the work. See: Preventing Economists’ Capture by Luigi Zingales, for instance. Then there’s the case of sports economists, who can build cases for or against publicly subsidized stadiums, entirely dependent on who is paying them.

“I’m hoping the Chambers of Commerce will have the integrity to not put up cash, to not exploit this privatization loophole in the code of ethics, and the same with the Partnership for Rhode Island,” said Bell. “And I hope that if they do [put up cash then Bruce Katz] will have the integrity to return it.”

Not likely.

4. Israel and Palestine

An an event coordinated by the Rhode Island College Chapter of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a group of right wing Christian Zionists who believe that Israel is where the apocalypse will be taking place, as predicted in Revelations resulted in protests Wednesday. The group partnered with the Rhode Island Coalition for Israel (RICI), a local group of right wing Zionist Christians and Jews, to bring former Rhode Island State Police Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Philbin to the campus to deliver a talk about his experiences during his visit to Israel for an anti-terrorsim training program, where he got to tour Israel’s Police, defense, and security forces.

Students outside the event were concerned about the anti-Islamic rhetoric of the groups involved with the program, and what support for the occupation of Palestine.

There is also the issue of Philbin being involved with what looks like assault on a 17-year old prisoner and the disappearance of surveillance tapes at the State Police department. Philbin retired in “good standing” nonetheless.

Finally, there’s the issue of whether the students had the right to protest at all. When I first arrived on the scene Rhode Island College security was trying to move the protesters outside the building and into the cold, in a designated free speech zone.

The protesters refused to move. “That is fascism,” said RIC faculty member Sadhana Bery. “What good is protesting over there, when we are protesting an event here? This makes no sense.”

5. House District 43

Melinda López has announced her intention to run for the House District 43 seat in Johnston. That seat in currently held by Deborah Fellela, who has represented District 43 since 2006 and ran unopposed in the 2018 election. Scuttlebut is that Fallela may not be seeking re-election next term.

6. Joe Paolino and Pete Buttigieg

“There are no violations of campaign finance laws,” Joe Paolino told Uprise RI reporter Julia Rock when asked to comment on the allegations. “Any expenses that are incurred will be reimbursed by the campaign.”

The Providence Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) raised questions about possible violations of federal campaign finance law by the Buttigieg campaign and Paolino Properties. In an open letter, published on UpriseRI on November 8, the Providence DSA questioned whether Paolino Properties, a real estate company managed by former Providence mayor Joseph Paolino Jr., was providing illegal in-kind donations to the Buttigieg campaign.

Buttigieg spoke at two events Sunday night, a small event downtown for $1000 and $2800 supporters and then a larger event at the Vets for smaller donors. Media was not allowed at either event.

7. Welcoming the formerly homeless

Four city councilors representing three Rhode Island cities today issued a letter in support of six families relocated from New York City to Rhode Island. Pawtucket City Councilmember Meghan Kallman (Ward 5), Providence City Councilmember Katherine Kerwin (Ward 12), Woonsocket City Councilmember At-Large Alex Kithes and Providence City Councilmember Rachel Miller (Ward 13) signed onto the letter that takes exception to comments made by local politicians since the New York Post revealed the details of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Special One-Time Assistance Program.”

Under the program, homeless families are given a full year’s rent. That money does not mean that these families have to leave the state, but many have, with a reported six families having come to Rhode Island.

You can read the letter here.

8. Rhode Island Democratic Party bylaws

Leonard Katzman, chair of the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee, wrote an open letter to the Rhode Island Democratic Party asking for more time, more discussion, and more openness regarding the newly proposed bylaws, which were unveiled less than two weeks ago and will be voted on Monday evening.

Critics of the new bylaws claim that they target women and progressives.

9. Direct Action for Rights and Equality

It’s a time of transitions over at DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality). After leading the group for over a decade, executive director Fred Ordoñez is stepping down, passing the torch to a pair of co-executive directors, Kiah Bryant and Christopher Samih-Rotondo.

At a ceremony held last Friday night, all the former executive directors of DARE were present.

See the passing of the torch here.

(c)2019 Selene Means

10. Left Drinking

On Thursday night a staggering 150 people attended Left Drinking at the Wild Colonial Tavern, twice what the organizers expected, and I should know, because UpriseRI was one of the organizers. It was a fun, casual event for people to relax, make connections, exchange ideas, and maybe make some plans to drag Rhode Island into a brighter, cleaner, more just future.

Our next event will be in December, stay tuned.

11. YouTube

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12. ACLU

13. The Bartholowmewtown Podcast

14. Wikipedia

Very excited by my updated Wikipedia bio, which now includes my journalism efforts. It feels the culmination of a very good year for Uprise RI. Thank you William Connor for your efforts!

15. Picture of the Week:

Claude LeBoeuf

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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.