The Uprising, December 21, 2018

Malchus Mills
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“You put over 200 people who have Christmas time, who have families who come to our establishment to work in good faith, and they’re out of work now? It’s despicable, this city.”

A manager at Foxy Lady

Happy Holidays and welcome the The Uprising!

1a. Foxy Lady

On December 11, the Providence Police arrested three women at the Foxy Lady on charges of prostitution. These arrests were made as part of an effort to shut down the adult entertainment club, and on December 19 the Providence Board of Licenses did just that. 200 people, many young women supporting families and children, lost their jobs, less than a week before Christmas.

“…moralistic raids on sex workers trying to provide for themselves will not ‘save them, but rather will contribute to long-term harm and their continued marginalization,” writes Bella Robinson, executive director of COYOTE RI, a group that works for the rights of sex workers. “Arrests like these don’t stop crime, but instead only create more victims. We urge City officials to drop the charges against these women and end the ongoing harassment of sex workers.”

“These are victims who are being pressed into this business for varying reasons,” said Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré during the first licensing hearing. “And, so, for this establishment to continue to operate, I believe that the women will continue to be victimized.”

Since when do we arrest the victims of crime?

1b. International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, on December 17 COYOTE RI observed the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, observed each year to “call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers worldwide, as well as the need to remove the social stigma, discrimination and indifference that have contributed to violence against sex workers.” The day was originally conceived as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington, who preyed on sex workers and other women in vulnerable populations.

“We consider sex workers anyone who earns their living off erotic labor,” said Bella Robinson, executive director of COYOTE RI (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics Rhode Island). “So there’s two different sectors. There’s illegal sex workers which are online escorts in the form of prostitution, then there’s legal sex work like strippers, cam workers, fetish models and phone sex operators…”

Bella Robinson

“Stigma is the number one way to kill a sex worker,” said Ramona Flour, executive director at Chaturbate, speaking at the vigil. “Being shamed, not having access to legal services, not having access to medical help. Me going to the doctor and explaining that I’m a legal sex worker, I work on porn sets, I still get doctors being shitty with me. I still get lawyers being shitty with me. I had an accountant fire me. I’ve had my Chase Credit Card banned. I had my Lift account banned, my Airbnb account banned, I’m banned on Facebook, I’m banned on Tinder…”

Commenting on the arrests at the Foxy Lady, Robinson commented that, “…while they always talk about victims and their children, notice that they never talk about lack of jobs that pay a living wage, or affordable housing or access to a higher education…”

Which is a good lead in to the next story:

2. Rhode Island Standard of Need

The Economic Progress Institute (EPI) publishes its Rhode Island Standard of Need (RISN) report twice a year to answer two important questions:

  1. What is the cost of meeting basic needs for families and individuals in Rhode Island?
  2. How do state and federal work and income  supports help households meet the cost of basic needs?

“The RISN calculates a household budget for families with two young children, and for single adults,” says the EPI in their report. “The no-frills budget includes the costs of housing, food, transportation, health care, child care and other necessities including clothing, toiletries and telephone service.”

The EPI report found that “[m]any Rhode Island households do not earn enough to make ends meet. Two in three (67 percent) single-parent families with two or more children earn less than the $62,844 needed to meet their basic needs, while over one in four (28 percent) two-parent households with two or more children do not earn the $68,310 needed to pay basic expenses. More than two in five (43 percent) single adults earn less than the the $27,044 needed to meet basic needs.”

3. Justice Reinvestment

As the EPI cited above shows, it isn’t easy to be poor, especially when the Rhode Island General Assembly and Governor Gina Raimondo seem more intent on criminalization than on following up on their commitment to “justice reinvestment.”

In a new report, the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island (ACLU RI) found that, “the ‘Statehouse-to-prison pipeline‘ got a little wider this year as the result of the General Assembly’s passage of a number of laws adding more than a dozen new felonies to the books and increasing sentences for a handful of crimes, while failing to pass any laws reducing or repealing prison sentences.”

Less than a year after the General Assembly enacted “justice reinvestment legislation designed to bring ‘smart justice’ to the state,” the General Assembly has doubled down punishment and criminalization. This is not just a stupid waste of taxpayer dollars, it is a stupid waste of people’s lives and futures. Real people, like the three women arrested at the Foxy Lady for allegedly agreeing to sex for money who had their names, addresses and pictures splashed across Rhode Island media.

The ACLU concludes:

“Creating more and more offenses and responding to high-profile individual crimes with increased sentences are very unproductive ways to deal with crime, as the evidence is scant that increased sentences have any effect on the crime rate. Whether for fiscal, social, pragmatic or humanitarian reasons, the General Assembly should spend more time considering all the adverse consequences that have arisen from a “get tough on crime” approach, and recognize that the time has come for a different, smarter approach…”

4. Housing

You know what else is financially crushing the people of Rhode Island? A lack of affordable housing. So it is disappointing to report that when members of DARE’s Tenant and Homeowner Association (THA) arrived at RI Housing and Providence City Hall to sing modified Christmas Carols to Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and Rhode Island Housing Director Barbara Fields, both refused to leave their offices for a few minutes to listen. The carols were written to deliver important community messages about THA’s demands for the rehabilitation of Barbara Jordan II apartments in South Providence, long- term affordability, local hiring, and resident control and ownership of the new development.

5. International Migrants Day

Standing Up for Racial Justice Rhode Island (SURJ) braved the windchill to hold a vigil outside the Federal Building across from Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence Tuesday evening to commemorate International Migrants Day.

“President Trump is portraying migrants as a security threat to advance his anti-immigrant agenda,” writes SURJ. “Communities across the United States are demanding an end to border militarization and calling for immigration policies that respect the rights and dignity of all people.”

It’s all related to the ongoing criminalization of certain classes of people.

6a. Climate Change

The Civic Alliance for a Cooler Rhode Island (CACRI) has issued a “citizen evaluation” of the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4) and have determined that “regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation, we in Rhode Island need to move beyond business as usual, and the EC4 merits being tuned-up and empowered to contribute to this movement.”

The EC4 was established as part of the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014. The Resilient Rhode Island Act was established to reduce carbon emissions in the state to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020; 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Unfortunately, the EC4 lacks teeth. It has no power to compel change: EC4’s role is purely advisory.

6b. Providence Water

“By 1960, the City of Providence had purchased or acquired 13,182 acres of land in the Town of Scituate,” writes attorney Michael Marcello in a “a pretty expensive report on the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB) commissioned by the Scituate Town Council. “Since Scituate contains 35,379 acres, there were 22,197 acres that remained in other private or public hands.”

This is about 42 percent of all the land in Scituate.

The newly released report meticulously details the ongoing battle between the PWSB and the Town of Scituate, which began immediately after the Reservoir was constructed and continue to this day.

The report provides what may be a valuable insight into Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s plan to lease the water rights in a public/private partnership. Much of the land owned by Providence in Scituate is now zoned for wind and solar projects, what could be a profitable enterprise for companies looking to develop the land around the Scituate Reservoir.

6c. Town of Scituate

“Providence’s request for qualifications to lease out the Providence Water Supply Board may not affect the town’s tax income from the agency, but it will remain a priority for the council-elect going into the new year,” writes Jacquelyn Moorehead in the Valley Breeze & Observer .

“Councilor-elect Tim McCormick said Scituate needs to be at the table with the PWSB and Providence during these discussions, though he said a request for qualifications from companies poses no threat to the tax treaty or payments to the town.

“‘As proposed, the transaction does not contemplate any sale or transfer of assets and therefore, it has no impact on the town of Scituate’s tax agreement with the PWSB,’ McCormick said…

Read:

Possible PWSB lease will not affect tax agreement

7. Reproductive Health Care Act

Three times the charm?

Rhode Island State Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence) and Representative Edith Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence) have pre-filed their legislation to enshrine the reproductive health care rights protected by Roe v Wade to defend against threats at the federal level.

The Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA), which they also filed in 2017 and 2018, would codify the current state of the law on reproductive rights in Rhode Island set forth under the landmark Roe v Wade case, limiting restrictions on an individual’s right to terminate a pregnancy. It would also update and correct Rhode Island codification of its general laws by formally removing statutes and sections concerning reproductive rights that have been declared unconstitutional and unenforceable, but have never been removed.

“…we are thrilled to see that State Senator Gayle Goldin and State Representative Edith Ajello just pre-filed the Reproductive Health Care Act(RHCA)…” writes The Womxn Project. “It is not enough to fight back attempts to take away access to abortion. We need to draw the line and take this important proactive step. We need to make it clear that in Rhode Island we should all have the ability to manage our health, plan our families and control our futures. We urge Rhode Island lawmakers to pay attention to the strong support for this common sense measure and vote the Reproductive Health Care Act through THIS YEAR!”

8. Judges

State Senators Ana Quezada (Democrat, District 2, Providence) and State Senator-Elect Sam Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) are criticizing Governor Gina Raimondo for not nominating a single Latinx person to the bench, leaving Rhode Island with no Latinx judges with the recent resignation of Rafael Ovalles.

“We should be represented on the bench,” said Quezada, “and it’s disappointing that it just isn’t happening right now.”

Bell agrees with Quezada, ut also expressed concerns about the appointment of Melissa Darigan to the Rhode Island Superior Court.

“I am deeply concerned with elements of Darigan’s background, and I worry about the perspective she will bring to the court,” said Bell. “Unlike the District Court nominees, whose lives have demonstrated a passion for public service and social justice, Darigan’s background is as a corporate lawyer, representing banks, insurance companies, and other corporate interests. We need more judges who will be skeptical of corporate power and be willing to rule on behalf of workers, the environment, and consumers.”

9. Tim DeChristopher

“10 years after he monkey-wrenched a Utah oil and gas lease auction, Tim DeChristopher is ‘feeling demoralized’ by ‘the state of the world’ but sees hope in humanity,” writes Brian Maffly in The Salt Lake Tribune.

DeChristopher lives in Rhode Island and continues his climate advocacy.

See:

Waterfire (and the Climate Crisis) sponsored by National Grid

This is what Democracy looks like: The People’s Hearing on Offshore Drilling

10. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

Bill Bartholomew interviews Central Falls Mayor James Diossa.

11. Peter Neronha

Ian Donnis and Scott MacKay pose questions to Rhode Island Attorney General-elect Peter Neronha on The Public’s Radio.

Political Roundtable: Neronha On His Priorities As AG, Partners HealthCare Merger & Legalizing Marijuana

Bonus Q&A: Neronha On 38 Studios, Open Records, Gun Laws & More

12. Santa and the Pickle Boys

The first in a series of yearly Christmas Tales by Steve Ahlquist (me). A little bit of Christmas Weird, the story is based on an actual legend of St Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas resurrects the pickle boys

13. Picture of the week:

Waiting to sing for Rhode Island Housing Director Barbara Fields

Happy Holidays, everyone, however you celebrate and even if you don’t: Be safe, be brave, and be kind.


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About Steve Ahlquist 1079 Articles
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.atomicsteve@gmail.com