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Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising, March 9, 2018



“In the times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while fools build barriers.”

Welcome to The Uprising. Let’s dive into the deep end.

1a. A storm hit the State House on Tuesday. Hundreds of people, many wearing the yellow tee shirts of the 2nd Amendment Coalition and many others wearing the red tees of Moms Demand Action on Gun Sense in America or the orange tees of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) came to testify for and against the bills bills being heard in the Judiciary Committees of both the House and the Senate. Of major concern were the red flag bills (see 1a below), bills that would outlaw the sale and use of bump stocks, and an assault weapons ban bill being heard only in the Senate. (The House assault weapon ban bill will be heard at a later date, so we can expect another large crowd in response to that.)

I’ve gotten a lot of negative comments about aspects of my coverage of that day from new visitors to the site. In my piece I cited examples of what I would characterize as harassing and bullying behavior on the part of a few members of the pro-gun crowd. I wrote about what I saw, and what women told me in private conversations. Many of the responses to my story deny that there was any bad behavior on the part of the 2nd Amendment Coalition, or maintain that all the bad behavior was from the other side.

Paul Fortin writes,

“Red shirts being harassed? You should check your facts, a state policeman there told me it was one of the most peaceful demonstrations he had ever seen. I think it’s naive to believe these people were bullied and harassed. They’ll say anything to make anyone against their agenda look bad. More fake news.”

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Curt, no last name given, writes,

“Complete lies.. the only altercation was a MOM pushing a 2A woman for video taping. As for room 303, it was cleared in the beginning because EVERY MOM put items on all the seats to save them for their own group. The officers cleared the room and then let people in as they were in line. Once the room was at capacity it was appx 12 Red shirts, 30 Yellow, whatever the capacity of the room was. Stop trying to spread lies.”

Michael, no last name given, writes,

“There was no harassment. People on both sides were very respectful of one another and it was a pleasure to see such healthy discourse take place, even though many women in red were paid to be there. It was a controlled assembly that resulted in over 1500 citizens and zero problems.” [emphasis mine]

M V writes, Yoda-like,

“Evidence, you lack it. Show a single photo or video of any harassment, abuse or bad conduct. If you can’t then printing this is irresponsible and borderline libel.”

Chris Harding writes,

“This is funny. When liberals get upset and know they are losing the fight, they try and make us all look bad. They did the same thing when Trump won office. All they do is accuse people and cry, running to a safe place. I think Starbucks has hot cocoa for you guys and Staples has plenty of safety pins. Now stop making nonsense stories and put your big girl/boy pants on and take it. Everyone please don’t bother on this bologna, it was a very peaceful and wonderful time. I actually spoke with a few women in red and we had a peaceful talk. Just because two people don’t agree on something doesn’t make one another a bad person.”

Jason, no last name given, writes,

“So… until you have your facts straight— piss off you ignorant f*ck.”

1b. Despite the strong political backing the red flag bills have received from Governor Gina Raimondo, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence), civil libertarians have expressed concerns.

The ACLU of Rhode Island issued a report with a long list of potential problems with bill. The report notes that the ACLU, “believes that there are many ways that the state can try to address this issue through the regulation of firearms without infringing on the constitutional rights of residents to bear arms. For example, we have not opposed efforts to restrict the types of weapons available for purchase, or many other gun control measures that have been introduced in the past and that courts have found to be reasonable regulation of Second Amendment rights.”  [emphasis mine]

“…restrict the types of weapons available for purchase” sounds like an assault weapons ban to me.

Randall Rose, a Providence activist and a member of Rhode Island Rights, highlighted the ways in which the red flag bills, as currently written, target marginalized communities.

“I would like, in future, to have a society with no guns,” writes Rose. “But this bill isn’t a step towards that, even though some may see it that way. The way it would play out in practice, it would instead be a step towards a society where, more than today, legal gun ownership is largely the preserve of the privileged, and conflicts over guns between police and vulnerable people lead to more deaths of the innocent.”

2a. Thursday was International Women’s Day and there were two events celebrating the day at the Rhode Island State House.

“When the doors of this State House opened in 1904, women were not allowed to vote,” noted Shawna Rihani, Assistant Director of Indivisible Rhode Island. “In fact, that did not change until 1917, when we were permitted to vote for the president only. Not until years later were our full voting rights granted. For decades the suffragettes of Rhode Island and nationally fought tirelessly for this right. The women were ridiculed, violated and suppressed… Today, we reap the benefits of the seeds they’ve sewn.”

2b. Democrat Justine Caldwell is running for House District 30 in East Greenwich against Republican Antonio Giarrusso. Caldwell spoke at one of the two International Women’s Day events at the State House on Thursday. (see item 2a above). Giarusso showed up towards the end of the event in the rotunda and posed with the attendees for photos. Caldwell writes to Giarusso in an open letter:

“It was nice to see you at the State House yesterday.

“I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor Representative Jason Knight (Democrat, District 67, Warren)’s bill which would ban assault weapons in Rhode Island.

“Recently, the residents of our district held a public event to talk about ways to prevent gun violence. I attended this event, and our neighbors are very concerned about gun violence, and strongly supportive of passing common-sense gun legislation to make our district — and all of Rhode Island — safer.

“I personally support this legislation. These weapons of war have no place in our state. If I were in the State House, I would already have signed on as a co-sponsor of this legislation.

“I know you’ve supported the gun lobby in the past — for example, by voting against last year’s law that took guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

“But in light of recent events, and the desire of our residents for common-sense gun laws, I hope that you’ll reconsider your approach to this critical issue.

“Please co-sponsor the Knight bill. It’s what our district’s residents want — and deserve — from their representative.

“Let me know what you decide.”

3a. Senator Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown) and Representative Katherine Kazarian (Democrat, District 63, East Providence) introduced bills (H7625 and S2529) that would “ensure affordability and accessibility of the most effective forms of contraception, including long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) options such as IUDs and implants. It would also protect the current $0 cost-sharing for contraception by preserving in Rhode Island law the ACA provision that says birth control is a preventive health care service. If passed, health care providers would be able to prescribe birth control up to a full year at a time, and would ensure it is covered without co-pay.”

3b. Shout out to Hilary Levey Freidman, President of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women, for quoting birth control activist, sex educator, writer and nurse Margaret Sanger at the Euer and Kazarian press conference announcing their bills:

“Birth control is the first important step woman must take toward the goal of her freedom. It is the first step she must take to be man’s equal. It is the first step they must both take toward human emancipation.”

My favorite biography of Sanger is: Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story

4a. A week ago a group of climate activists led by Justin Boyan of Climate Action Rhode Island and Tim DeChristopher of the Climate Disobedience Center gave a live demo of actual democracy and public involvement to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management when BOEM came to Rhode Island to sell the idea of offshore oil and gas drilling.The protesters were objecting not only to offshore drilling, but to the format of the hearing, held in an “open house” or “science fair” style, rather than a hearing where the public could speak.

This week 23 Senators, including Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who oversees BOEM, saying, “We do not believe that the 23 currently announced ‘open house’ style meetings are adequate in duration, location, nor format needed to meet the public input requirements… In addition, formal oral testimony, as opposed to an ‘open house’ format, would better ensure that people’s concerns are heard and recorded publicly.” [emphasis mine]


4b. Dylan Clark of the Brown Daily Herald has more on the local response to Trump’s offshore drilling plans here: Politicians, students respond to Trump’s offshore drilling plans

5. Fête Music Hall scheduled a show for March 31 featuring the band Mayhem whose founder and drummer, Jan Axel Blomberg, has an alleged history of “numerous racist comments and advocating violence against homosexuals.”

However Fête deals with this issue, Metal music still has an unaddressed Nazi problem, according to David Anthony at the AV Club.

6. The Pawtucket Public Library has scheduled a “Tony the Dancing Cop safety show” for children on Wednesday, April 18, from 10:30-11:30am. Tony Lepore, the Dancing Cop, had long been a seasonal holiday feature in Providence, dancing and directing traffic downtown, until he involved himself in an incident that brought him into conflict with the Providence Police Department, from which he is retired, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Tony Lepore says Black Lives Matter is a hate group. He spouts anti-immigrant vitriol. He calls ‘Dreamers’ bums and drug dealers. A few years ago he tried to get a teenage employee of Dunkin’ Donuts fired for writing Black Lives Matter on a coffee cup,” writes Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) in their petition calling for the cancellation of the library event. “It normalizes xenophobia and racism to welcome someone with Mr Lepore’s history and reputation to lead an event for our kids.”

Lepore marched in the Pawtucket St Patrick’s Day Parade and plans to march in the Newport St Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17.

7. The Woman Project interviews Alana DiMario, licensed therapist of families and children. DiMario is a licensed therapist who specializes in children and family relationships as well as helping women and couples through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Asked about the Reproductive Health Care Act, which would codify Roe v Wade into Rhode Island State law, and about including children in the advocacy for passing this legislation, DiMario said,

“Though the law is about abortion access, the issues at stake are much larger than that. Especially in the media, reproductive healthcare access has been framed as a moral and religious issue, and the anti-choice movement has capitalized on the misogynist and patriarchal system that has long painted anything related to female sexuality as shameful and secret. To be effective advocates, we as adults need to put this issue in its proper context and work through any hesitation or internalized shame we might feel about talking about these issues.”

8. The West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA) held their 5th Annual “Conversation With Our Elected Officials” Monday evening at West Broadway Middle School. Attending were Senator Paul Jabour (Democrat, District 5, Providence) Representative John Lombardi (Democrat, District 8, Providence) and Representative Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence).

9a. March 14 is the day for the Walkout to End Gun Violence. Here’s the schedule, per the Providence Student Union:

12:45   Walkout
1:45     Students arrive at Rhode Island State House (mall side), #EnoughRI youth rally begins
2:30     #NeverAgain Rally for Safe Schools joins with student rally
3:30     Press Conference inside State House for Safe Schools Act

“We are calling for students, teachers, school administrators, parents, and allies to take part in a walkout. We want to end gun violence in our communities using an intersectional approach,” write the organizers on Facebook. “Students in Providence and across Rhode Island are walking out because we demand action now. The walkout will further educate the community on gun legislation and demand laws to keep us safe from gun violence.”

The students are demanding:

  • Ban guns from schools. All guns, period.
  • Ban assault weapons, bump stocks, and high-capacity magazines. Require background checks.
  • Increase school counselors and clinicians, not police in schools
  • Increase services to reduce gun violence in all communities

9b. The walk-out has parents and school administrators in Portsmouth concerned about safety, but also about the precedent the walk-out might set. John McDaid from hard deadlines id some terrific work here:

PHS reverses course; no suspension for student walkout

9c. This new call for action on gun violence, in the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting, is coming from students and young people. Below, students testify before the Senate judiciary Committee.

11. President Donald Trump‘s “arbitrary and cruel” deadline for Congress to act on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) passed without action, literally crushing the dreams of DREAMers in the process.

“Congress has failed to act on behalf of DREAMers and the 86 percent of the American public that agrees they should thrive in the country and communities they belong to and love. And while bipartisan legislation to address this inhumane crisis exists, it is languishing in Congress,” said Gabriela Domenzain, director of the Latino Policy Institute. “Thousands of DACA recipients have already lost the assurance that they will wake up in their beds and not in an immigrant detention cell, and every day that passes this manufactured humanitarian crisis hurts more and more of us.”

12. National Grid‘s rate case proceeds as the Rhode Island public Utilities Commission (PUC) continues its public comment tour. The hearing in Providence took place in the dark. Literally.

That said, an important takeaway is that this rate case, in which National Grid is asking for large increases in both gas and electric rates, and is looking to up their profits as well as their operating costs, is also a way to fund investments in naturalgas infrastructure..

“These things last 10, 20, 30 years, the investments that we make,” said Jonathan Shrag, Deputy Director of the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers.

Given the extreme weather events and rapidly warming planet, can we afford 10, 20, 30 more years of fossil fuels?

13. The WPRI / Roger Williams University poll wasn’t good news for any of the candidates, except maybe Paul Roselli and stealth candidate Matt Brown, who were not included in the poll.

Roselli writes:

“The Democrats need to rethink their strategy. This poll shows that the current Governor is at great risk of handing this position to the Republicans in November. Furthermore the Governor’s job performance rating is very poor – rock bottom low. If Raimondo wins the nomination again she could harm down- ticket races and put a number of currently held Democratic seats in the General Assembly in danger.”

“It is very clear, hard working Rhode Islanders feel alienated. There has been almost no progress on a wide variety of issues from the slow movement on the minimum wage to the lack of competence from the Governor on UHIP. It IS time for a change and as a Progressive Democratic champion I can offer the party a popular winnable alternative to the disaster of Fung as Governor.”

Brown writes:

“My campaign will be nonpartisan. I will run as an independent because the fight that matters in the long run is not us against them, but all of us – all of us together — against the huge challenges we are facing. We all want the same things: to have security and opportunity for ourselves and our children, to be part of strong and loving communities and to have hope for the future. This will require us to come together to make big, bold changes to our economy, our financial system, our energy system, and our system of care. As a politically independent Governor, I will best be able to reach out to people of all backgrounds and parties to find ways to come together and work together based on our common interest and our common humanity.”

The first gubernatorial forum and debate will take place at 7pm on March 29th at the Sheraton Hotel near TF Green Airport at 1850 Post Road in Warwick, RI 02886. It will be moderated by news anchor Bill Rappleye of Channel
10 News. Gina Raimondo and Allan Fung have yet to confirm their attendance at the event. Independent Joseph Trillo will only be there if Fung confirms. Rosselli, Patricia Morgan and Giovanni Feroce have all confirmed.

14. Picture off the week:

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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 nearly a decade.