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The Uprising! March 13, 2020 -The stay at home edition

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Those of us lucky enough to have homes are being encouraged to stay there as the world seems to be quietly shutting down due to fears of the coronavirus pandemic. The experience is pretty new to most of us, but I can’t help thinking about those who have no homes, who will be living on the street to avoid overcrowded homeless shelters. That said, the fortunate among us will have time to read, reflect, catch up on television, and stay close to loved ones.

Note that at this time, “there have not been any suspected, reported, or confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection at any Crossroads RI facility.”

“Individuals and families experiencing homelessness may face greater risks of potential COVID-19 infections; however, they should still seek shelter and support to find permanent housing,” said Crossroads RI President and CEO Karen Santilli. “At this point, there are currently no suspected or confirmed cases at any Crossroads facility and we are taking necessary precautions to protect our staff, clients and guests from infection.”

So that being said, let’s check out what UpriseRI has been up to the last few weeks:

Climate/Environment/Energy

1a. Proposed Port garbage transfer station is dead

A rare bit of good news as opponents of a proposed garbage transfer station aimed at the environmentally stressed communities of South Providence and the Washington Park Neighborhood learned that the applicant has withdrawn their application. For now, the threat of an additional 188 trucks a day hauling garbage into the community has been averted, but the applicant still owns the land, and could resubmit any time, restarting the process.


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“This was a win for the community,” said Linda Perri, President of the Washington Park Neighborhood Association, who with Providence City Councilmember Pedro Espinal and NoLNGinPVD director Monica Huertas led the opposition to the project. “It is so great that everybody got behind this. It became a movement. It showed that real people really do care about injustice and the climate. It put a laser-like focus on South Providence. I would like to see that land developed into a green, clean solar field, something to benefit the community.”

Now it is time for the Providence City Council to rewrite the zoning so that projects like this can no longer build in the Port.

1b. Act on Climate bill faces resistance in House Environment Committee

In the House Environmental Committee hearing, Representatives Robert Phillips (Democrat, District 51, Woonsocket) and Brian Patrick Kennedy (Democrat, District 38, Westerly, Hopkinton), close allies to Speaker of the house Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston), led the charge against the Act on Climate 2020 legislation, which would “strengthen Rhode Island’s commitment to fighting climate change through the establishment of a statewide greenhouse gas emission reduction mandate. The bill would require Rhode Island to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent by 2050 and would bring Rhode Island into line with the mandatory, enforceable greenhouse gas emission reductions already in place in neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut.”

Mattiello once said there is nothing Rhode Island can do about climate change, and Representative Kennedy seems to agree, sating, “It is not the State of Rhode Island, per se, that is producing all of this pollution,” said Kennedy. “So unless the industrial states like Ohio, and Illinois and Pennsylvania do something to take action on climate change, all we’re doing is forcing the people here to have pain and perhaps higher bills in the form of taxes if in fact they’re not doing anything and we are doing something.”

Amy Moses from Conservation Law Foundation hit back eloquently.

“Everyone needs to step up and do something. We’re all in this together and there are some huge benefits to us getting out and addressing climate change, air pollution, healthcare costs,” said Moses. “We’ve got the offshore wind farm. Having a clean economy actually helps create jobs. So if states like Rhode Island for example, just say ‘Oh yeah, you know, we don’t really need to do anything. It doesn’t matter,’ it’s not going to work. Every single person, every single state, every single community is part of this problem. And if we want to tackle this global, worldwide emergency, we all really need to step up and participate.

“We all have a responsibility,” continued Moses. “Unfortunately, the federal government is not taking leadership on this right now, which is why states and states working together, and countries around the world, are stepping up. So it is unfortunate that there may be some people who don’t take swift action, but that is not an excuse for us just to sit back.”

1c. Is turning waste plastic into fuel the answer to our waste management and energy woes? Probably not…

Here’s your introduction to the process of pyrolysis and gasification, a process the American Chemistry Council and some members of the Rhode Island State Senate seem intent on bring to the state. Proponents call pyrolysis “an effective way to convert biomass, especially waste, agricultural waste and such, into useful fuels and products.” The truth is that the process is wasteful, and simply another way to burn fossil fuels.

Be ready. This issue is going to heat up a lot before it’s over.

1d. Study: Speaker Mattiello blocks “real and impactful” climate change bills

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston), the legislator who infamously said, “there’s nothing Rhode Island can do to address climate change in a way that’s real or impactful” is the legislator who has blocked every real and impactful bill that’s come before the Rhode Island General Assembly, according to a new analysis from RI Rank. That analysis places Speaker Mattiello dead last in the House for his environmental voting record.

“Overall, this segment reflects a House that, despite its overall makeup, is held captive by a single anti-environment legislator,” writes RI Rank.

1e. Proposed R.I. Bottle Bill Stalled by Business Interests by Tim Faulkner at ecoRI

The Rhode Island General Assembly

2a. The “Stop Guilt by Accusation Act” Episode Demonstrates Everything Wrong About the Legislative Process in RI by Samuel Gifford Howard at the Rhode Island Liberator

How did blatantly unconstitutional legislation, from a crank, get introduced in the State Senate? The problem is systemic, says Sam Howard in this amazing piece.

2b. Bill to outlaw masks and protective gear at protests heard in House committee

Speaking of unconstitutional bills, Representative Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence) introduced a bill to prevent protesters from wearing masks and protective gear at rallies, protests and parades. “We live in very volatile political times,” said Corvese. “Members of the extreme right and the extreme left face off every day with words and actions. In certain cities, such as Boston and Portland, Oregon, confrontations between these extremes have turned violent.”

Many people turned out to oppose the bill, which is supported by law enforcement in our state. The testimony against the bill was about the need of some people to protect their identities from white supremacists who seek to dox them. There was also a defense of the idea that wearing clothing to protect oneself from violence does not show an intent to commit violence.

Though the bill was held for further study, Representative Corvese expressed some interest in tweaking the bill and reintroducing it.

2c. Advocates push for licenses for all

Granting undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses is a no-brainer. It makes all drivers safer and allows undocumented people to live their lives with less fear. Unfortunately, this legislation is being held up by Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, who proudly ran for re-election on the promise to not allow this legislation to pass. Governor Gina Raimondo could sign an executive order instructing the Rhode Island Department of motor Vehicles to issue such licenses, as she promised to do when she first ran for Governor, but she has said that the change must come legislatively, once elected.

2d. Business interests can now anonymously testify by text before House Committees?

During testimony on House Bill 7399, which would modify the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 and give teeth to the legislation requiring real action on climate change, Representative Robert Phillips (Democrat, District 51, Woonsocket) revealed that he was text messaging with lobbyist Lenette Forry-Menard, a lobbyist representing businesses and other interests opposed to this important climate action bill.

Later, Representative Phillips paraphrased a text he received from an unidentified person opposed to the bill, and began to grill witnesses on whether or not they had electric cars and solar tiles on their roofs. It was an amazing display of arrogance on the part of a legislator more interested in serving anti-climate business interests than the people of Rhode Island.

2e. Chambers of Commerce weaponize coronavirus against workers

Lobbyists working for the Greater Providence and Northern Rhode island Chambers of Commerce, as well as many other business intersts, used the coronavirus as an excuse tonot pass a bill that would bring fair scheduling to Rhode Island workers during a House Labor Committee hearing last week.

“It is so coincidental,” said House Labor Chair Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence) with some sarcasm, “that the coronavirus is aiding the opposition to this bill. Everybody’s talking about it. They ain’t talking about the chicken pox or just the regular flu. But the coronavirus is the big, hot ticket. So they’re going to utilize it to say, ‘mm-mm.’”

2f. Muddy Matiello: A look at the RI Speaker of the House’s Abuses of Power by Osayuwamen “Uwa” Ede-Osifo at the College Hill Independent

Providence

3a. Undercover Providence Police Faked Withdrawal Symptoms and Solicited Suboxone by Julia Rock and Harry August at The Appeal

The arrests of “drug dealers” wasn’t exactly what Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said it was. Also, as a result of this piece, we now have this letter to the Mayor demanding reforms to the way we criminalize buprenorphine (Suboxone):

“Operation Bussed Out” Response Letter

Consider adding your signature.

3b. John Goncalves wins PVD City Council Ward One primary; uncontested in general

3c. PVD City Council pushes back against Great Streets Initiative

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) has suggested revisions to the Great Streets initiative. Bicyclists and pedestrians push back.

Politics

4a. Challenging the status quo: The RI Political Cooperative answers questions

The Rhode Island Political Cooperative is seeking to take control of Rhode island politics with a progressive agenda. Here, three candidates answer questions and explain their policies and plans.

4b. You Should Run Rhode Island State Senator Gayle Goldin

Rhode Island State Senator Gayle Goldin on the You Should Run podcast.

Reproductive Rights

5a. General Assembly urged to pass Equality in Abortion Coverage Act of 2020

The Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom (RICRF) joined Senator Bridget Valverde and Representative Liana Cassar to urge Rhode Island lawmakers to pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act of 2020. The bill will eliminate unfair, discriminatory Rhode Island laws that prevent state employees and people enrolled in Medicaid from using their health insurance to cover abortion.

Despite passing the Reproductive Privacy Act of 2019 last year, which safeguards the right to safe, legal abortion in Rhode Island, current state laws leave more than 300,000 residents, many of whom are people of color and people with low incomes, with health insurance that does not provide coverage for abortion. Although abortion is legal, for many in Rhode Island – especially those struggling to make ends meet – access to abortion remains out of reach.

5b. Rhode Islanders travel to the United States Supreme Court to fight for reproductive rights by Alexis Raposa

“This week, abortion rights were once again on the chopping block. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard June Medical Services LLC v Russo, a case from Louisiana that challenged targeted restrictions on abortion providers, or TRAP Laws, that require abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. These laws place an unnecessary burden on both patients and providers and were deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in an almost identical case from Texas in 2016. To show support for women in Louisiana and abortion providers, 50 Rhode Islanders from the The Womxn Project made the 400 mile trek down to Washington, DC.

“The Rhode Island delegation sported matching teal t-shirts that displayed pictures of the three female Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor and attended a rally in front of the Supreme Court organized by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). According to CRR the rally attracted close to 4,000 people including actress Elizabeth Banks who works as chair of the Creative Council for CRR. At the rally, Banks asserted to an enthusiastic crowd, ‘Abortion is normal, abortion is healthcare, abortion is freedom, abortion is our human right.’”

Grab Bag

6. The rich aren’t fleeing Rhode island, in fact, it’s the opposite

7. Anti-ICE activist found guilty and given maximum sentence

After a three day trial, activist Sherrie Andre was found guilty of trespassing and disturbing the peace, charges resulting from a peaceful anti-ICE protest that Sherrie was arrested at in August 2018. Sherrie was sentenced to 30 days in jail—the maximum possible sentence—to be served at the Bristol County House of Corrections.

8. Life goes on, obladi, oblada: A reflection on what we have learned – and not learned – about the spread of the coronavirus, as it moves toward pandemic by Richard Asinoff at ConvergenceRI

9. Celebrating International Sex Workers Rights Day at the Dark Lady with Coyote RI

10. Detention, Incarceration, Deportation: The Wyatt Detention Center and the national prison-industrial complex by Leela Berman at the College Hill Independent

11. Hope and Change for Haiti celebrates International Women’s Day

12. Roger William’s best seller:

13. Healing Through Theater: How a Trinity Rep actor helped Sheila Bentley tell her version of PVD history by Clara Gutman Argemí at the College Hill Independent

14. ACLU

15. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

16. Picture of the Week:

Isabely Garcia speaking in favor of driver’s licenses for all

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. atomicsteve@gmail.com