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Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising, November 10



Welcome to The Uprising, a weekly roundup of social justice-y news.

Nationally, the week started with yet another horrific mass shooting, this time in a Texas church and Trump went to Asia even as voters, especially women and minorities, rebuked his policies, bigly. Oh, and the Paradise Papers are giving us an inside look at the end game of oligarchy.

Locally, though…

1. The tragic police shooting in Providence Thursday is turning into terrible mess for state and city police officers. It’s difficult to know exactly what happened, but as the pieces fall into place, the picture being revealed doesn’t look good. The shooting was recorded on multiple cameras.

End Police Brutality PVD sent Uprise RI a strong oped blaming the police response on “pursuit rage” and making the case that such violence is baked into the policing system and therefore inevitable.

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I response to criticisms of the oped, specifically the use of the word “murder, ” I wrote the following:

“It is very strong language, and I struggled with it, but ultimately decided that the group had a right to the language they felt best conveyed their message. This community has a very different relationship with the police than many of us who are comfortably middle class and I don’t think censoring them is the answer. Instead, I want to amplify their voice so that we might better understand their concerns and experiences.”

Only two days earlier Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements said that “violent crime from firearm activity” is very low right now…

2. In Boston, undocumented immigrant Siham Byah, a 40-year old Moroccan Muslim woman with an eight-year old son who is an American citizen was detained by ICE. Her son was placed into foster care. Over 100 people rallied to demand her released.

An outspoken member of Occupy Boston, Byah’s detention has spawned speculation that her detention is politically motivated. Her comments during the Arab Spring and her criticisms of the Moroccan government have led many to fear her life would be in danger if she is sent back to her native country.

3. The race to fill Representative Aaron Regunberg’s soon to be vacant District 4
House seat got more interesting when Mark Tracy declared his candidacy. Rebecca Kislak declared last week, which means there are now two candidates announced for a race that’s almost exactly a year away.

Meanwhile Regunberg, who is leaving his seat to go after the Lieutenant Governor position, has picked up three endorsements form environmental groups. Regunberg is running against Daniel McKee, who announced his reelection campaign this week.

4. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi toured CCRI Monday and brought some bitter truths, or at least some Democratic talking points, about the GOP/Trump tax plan. The tax plan will:

  • Raises Taxes on the Middle Class – taxes will be raised on millions of families across America.
  • Add Trillions to the Debt to Give Tax Cuts to America’s Wealthiest & Corporations – while stripping credits and deductions from middle class families.
  • Includes Tax Incentives for Corporations to Ship American Jobs Overseas – eliminating jobs, and driving down American wages & salaries.
  • Budget Ransacks Medicare & Medicaid of $1.5 Trillion – GOP will also use new deficits to justify further devastating Medicare & Medicaid.

It will not, despite the claims of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, benefit “far more people than RI’s crony-socialism approach.” (As if tax cuts for billionaires or crony-capitalism is the only choice.) (And isn’t “crony socialism” redundant? The term is crony capitalism, because capitalists are supposed to compete, but under socialism people would theoretically work together.)

Here’s the Tax Foundation‘s “non-partisan” take.

5a. Invenergy’s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the forests of northwest Rhode Island continues to cause controversy. Last week, Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save the Bay seemed to suggest to Dan Yorke that the power plant should be located in the Port of Providence rather than in Burrillville. When I asked him about what he said he walked back his comments and said that he should never have answered Yorke’s question.

5b. Invenergy’s plan to pump water from Narragansett Indian Tribal lands will require “significant alteration to the wetland” says Ruth Platner, writing for the Charlestown Citizens Alliance. The area in question, writes Platner, “…is the center of the Indian Cedar Swamp, an over 900 acre, pristine wetland. The land was previously a state wildlife management area. It was transferred to the Narragansett Indian Tribe as part of the Settlement Act in 1978. It was transferred with the restriction that it be “held in perpetuity for conservation purposes and shall not be improved or developed.”

5c. Burrillville is once more asking the Energy Facility Siting Board, the quasi-judicial body that will approve or deny the proposed plant, to shut down Invenergy’s application noting that the company is not always forthcoming with information. Specifically, when the Town asked Invenergy to reveal all its public outreach, Invenergy declined to mention “Rhode Islanders for Affordable Energy,” an astroturfing group created by Invenergy to promote the plant.

6. Michael Araujo, executive director of Rhode Island Jobs With Justice, talked reproductive rights in another great interview with The Woman Project. I can’t do justice to the interview with a snippet, but try this:

“We have seen in the last several years, a serious re-examination of reproductive choice in my community,” said Araujo. “This change is reflective of the new civil rights leadership that has emerged post-Ferguson. The founders of Black Lives Matter show a dramatic shift from church centered and male dominated Black Liberation to a street-based and woman-centered movement. Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Partrisse Cullors have identified denial of ready access to reproductive services as an issue and they have also identified that violence against the black community by the state is also a reproductive act and a denial of choice, by having our children killed and so many locked away.”

7. Anyone in need of health care services, regardless of income or whether they have insurance, is welcome to come to Burnside Park in downtown Providence Saturday morning from 9am to 1pm where students from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, in partnership with local community organizations, will provide basic health screenings, vaccines, HIV + Hep C testing, health history creation, overdose prevention training, and in-person connections to local clinics and resources to the Providence community.

8. The idea of publicly owned utilities is going to be a big issue moving forward. The Power to the People campaign, organized by the Providence Democratic Socialists of America want to “Nationalize Grid.” Representative Aaron Regunberg will be introducing legislation to make it possible for communities to take control over their local utilities.

This new focus comes after years of rate hikes and shut-offs of vulnerable populations by National Grid. Grid’s slow response to repairs post windstorm have also galvanized the movement.

A multinational energy company isn’t going to go quietly though, so as this movement picks up steam, expect to see National Grid fight back hard to hold onto their Rhode Island cash cow.

9. Did you know that the three wealthiest billionaires are worth more than the bottom half of US households combined? Here’s the report: Billionaire Bonanza 2017: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us.

10. This Tuesday saw at least seven transgender candidates elected to public office. Danica Roehm beat Virginia‘s self-described “homophobe in chief,” the Virginia delegate who wrote an anti-trans bathroom bill. But just as Barack Obama’s election to the office of POTUS didn’t end racism, I don’t see these elections, as positive and defining as they are, as ending transphobia. There’s still a lot to do. The Trans Day of Remembrance, “an annual day of observance to remember the lives lost to anti-trans violence as well as to celebrate past trans and queer leaders that inspire us to resist,” is November 20.

11. Signs of climate change in Providence from Justin Boyan of Climate Action RI/

12. Picture of the week is from the #FreeSiham Byah rally in Boston. Here lawyers have asked for a large social media campaign to help force her release. Try tweeting #FreeSiham and help yourself to any of my pictures here.

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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.