Over 50 people gathered outside Rhode Island Recycled Metals on 434 Allens Avenue in the Port of Providence to demand that the unlicensed facility, where a scrapped Russian submarine caught fire weeks earlier, be permanently shut down. The submarine fire, which spewed noxious, unknown pollutants in to the air for hours on March 9, was just the latest in a series of environmental disasters and near disasters in the Port over the past six years, including an ethanol train derailment on Allens Avenue, a fuel truck overturning and spilling its contents on the Route 95 on ramp, and a gas pipeline explosion behind a strip club.
This protest was organized by The People’s Port Authority, led by environmental justice activist Monica Huertas. “This site right here has no permits from DEM or any other agency that permits them to be here,” said Huertas to the crowd. Huertas made it clear that she was not just talking about Rhode Island Recycled Metals, she was talking about all the toxic industries in her neighborhood. “We want all these companies shut down because of how bad they are for our community,” said Huertas. “But today we are demanding that this one get shut down immediately.”
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) told Huertas that they have taken Rhode Island Recycled Metals to court 50 times because the company has failed to take proper precautions when it comes to environmental pollution. Huertas pointed to the piles of metal that littered the scrapyard. “Look at it! All that stuff is leaking into the ground, into the air.”
“What happens to you if you own a house or rent an apartment, and you have it like this dump here?” asked Huertas. “What happens? You get shut down. Your house gets condemned. poor people get their houses condemned all the time… and these people can just be here and make a mockery of the community.”
Chants of “Shut the Scrap!”
“There’s no good revenue here,” said Huertas. “This is bottom of the barrel shit.” The Port of providence, said Huertas, is where the stuff that “no one else wants in their community” goes. “So they throw in here with all the Black and brown folk and nobody cares about it.”
Huertas bemoaned the fact that this pristine waterfront property wasn’t being used to benefit the community. Parks, sailing, a community center on the water, all of these things would be possible, were it not for the chemical storage, scrap yards and other toxic industries.
Melody from Newport pointed out that toxic, racially segregated neighborhoods are all over Rhode Island, including her home city of Newport. She also connected this fight to Renew Rhode Island’s three proposed Green New Deal Bills.
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“Growing up in Providence, I had bronchitis. Every year I missed so many days of school. And this bronchitis, the cause of it, was polluted air.”
Sara, a Brown University medical student from Los Angeles noted that “there’s nothing that I can do in the hospital or the clinic that is so important, that would be so impactful as shutting this down.”
Terri Wright from Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE)’s Homeowners and Tenants Association:
Taylor Ellis from South Kingstown:
David Veliz, director of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty:
Politicians who made an appearance include State Senator Kendra Anderson (Democrat, District 31, Warwick, Cranston) and Gonzalo Cuervo, who is running for Mayor of Providence in 2022.
Here’s the livestream from Will James: