Well over 200 people gathered at the Rhode Island State House on Wednesday evening to demand that election officials ignore calls for an early stop to the election and Count Every Vote. The rally was organized by the Rhode Island Working Families Party, Sunrise Providence, Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) and Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). Sister rallies took place in cities and towns across the nation.
As of this writing Joseph Biden is poised to win the election, but no official result has yet to be declared.
“Trump is losing,” wrote organizers. “His only remaining strategy is to bully his way through election day and beyond, hoping we the people won’t fight back. But we’re not going to let fear, doubt, and division keep us from voting – or from ensuring that every single vote is counted.”
Will James had the live stream:
“We all deserve a government that’s here to take care of us, here to listen to us, a government that respects our voices and our votes, and makes sure that every single vote, here and across the country, is counted,” said emcee Rachel Baker, an organizer with Sunrise Providence. “The work that we do today, the work that we did yesterday and the work that we do tomorrow continues and continues so that one day in the future they’ll be doing things that right now seem impossible. And they’ll be doing those things because we paved the road for them.”
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“We know that those closest to the problem are closest to the solutions but furthest from the resources,” said Cherie Cruz, with the Behind the Walls Committee at DARE and the co-founder of the Formerly Incarcerated Union. “So we believe that we are all stronger together in breaking down the barriers of the criminal justice system so that we can live free and thrive here in Rhode Island.”
A key part of the criminal justice reform movement in Rhode Island, Cruz works against the use of solitary confinement in Rhode Island prisons. She and the groups she represents are also calling for probation and parole reform. Rhode Island leads the nation in parole and probation rates. Court debt is another issue that destroys a person’s ability to get free from the criminal justice system. Despite a law that allows incarcerated people the right to vote, in Rhode Island there is no mechanism to ensure that this right is one that can be exercised by incarcerated people.
“We are asking all of you to continue to fight and advocate for dismantling these discriminatory systems and work towards creating a system that is built towards meeting people’s needs instead of one that is built on punishment and exclusion,” said Cruz.
“Here in Providence the City Council is actively working to fuel [the criminal justice] system through the police,” said Rachel Baker. The City Council placed a resolution on the agenda for their November 5 meeting that calls for increased funding for the Providence Police Department, despite recent efforts by activists committed to defunding the police and moving police resources to other services to reduce crime.
“The City wants to hire 200 more cops,” said Baker, “and they’re trying to do this under the table so that no one would know.”
“When we’re talking about building the community, we’re talking about DARE,” said Terri Wright. “We’re strongly committed to stopping the displacement of families by supporting the need for low-income affordable housing for struggling communities. There is a public outcry for affordable housing. How can we successfully treat mental illness, asthma, those with disabilities, diabetes? We’re in a pandemic! …
“There were six evictions filed before our state shutdown in June,” said Wright. “1,166 have been filed during this pandemic.”
Sunrise organizer Nicole DiPaolo led the rally in song.
A high powered talk about climate justice from Jeremy Ornstein an organizer with Sunrise.
“I’m here because I have hope. Because I’m an idealist. Because I’m a radical. Because I’m a leftist and because I believe that we have a path forward,” said State Senator-elect Tiara Mack, who spoke on the issue of economic and housing justice.
“I am an immigrant, the daughter of laborers and union members, a working class woman of color and an organizer with the Working Families Party,” said Andrea Rojas. She spoke about voter suppression, and the need to protect the right to vote.
Rachel Baker closed the rally out.