The Uprising, February 16, 2018

“We will not take shortcuts on the path to righteousness.”
– Commander Michael Burnham

It’s The Uprising for February 15, 2018.

What’s happening you ask? Well…

1. Immigration:

“While eight of my Republican colleagues did the right thing and voted in favor of a bipartisan compromise which was in the best interest of our nation’s businesses and our economy, a majority of Republican Senators set in motion the possibility of deportation for hard-working, driven young people who play by the rules and contribute to our nation,” said United States Senator Jack Reed (Democrat, Rhode Island) in a statement. “They chose to reject tough but fair proposals that provided President Trump with his border wall, among many other very conservative concessions.”

DREAMer Rodrigo Pimentel put it more simply, writing on Facebook, “The Senate voted for the deportation of DREAMers.”

I wrote here about Rodrigo renewing his DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) ahead of a vote that should have secured his safety, but instead throws his future to the winds.

2. More immigration:

Lilian Calderon was taken into detention by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement during a routine visit to an immigration office despite being on a proper, legal path towards becoming a lawful permanent resident. She spent nearly a month in detention before being granted a 90-day stay on her deportation back to Guatamala, a country she left at the age of three. (Detention is one of those words journalists shouldn’t be using because it’s just a nice word for prison, and it disguises what is really happening… but I digress.)

Calderon’s experience was punctuated with frequent threats of solitary confinement. She was treated not as a detainee, whatever that might mean, but as a criminal, a prisoner.

Calderon is a mother of two children who are United States citizens and married to Luis Gordillo, also a citizen.

She was released on February 13, and you can hear her talk about some of what she went through here:

3. Even more immigration:

If you know someone who is dealing with an immigration issue or police violence, tell them to call the AMOR Support Line at 401-675-1414. The Support Line will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will initially have English and Spanish language capacity. By calling this line, community members and bystanders experiencing or witnessing acts of state-sponsored and individual violence will be able to access support.

The AMOR Support Line is a joint effort of six groups, Alianza para Movilizar Nuestra Resistencia (AMOR/Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance), Colectivo Sin Fronteras, DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality), Coyote RIThe FANG Collective, and PrYSM (Providence Youth Student Movement).

The AMOR Supprot Line is continuing to fund raise to cover emergency legal costs for the communities they serve as a part of the Support Line. Contributions are sorely needed.

Unfortunately, the AMOR Support Line opened a month too late to help Lilian Calderon, but even more unfortunately, I fear the line will very much come in handy in the months ahead.

4. Guns:

The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida is the 18th school shooting in the United States this year. Sacrificing our children to gun toting domestic terrorists is the price we pay for the freedom to bear arms say some, while decent human beings are not convinced this evil is necessary.

Here’s one response:

“There will never be a legislative solution to cure the malice that resides in the heart of evil doers. But we can and must ban highly lethal weapons of war in the hands of civilians. The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence again implores our state legislators to join our neighboring New England states and ban Assault Weapons and guns in schools.”

Here’s another response, courtesy of the Providence Journal:

State Republican Chairman Mark Smiley said the winners of the party’s gun raffle this Sunday [which includes Smith & Wesson’s version of the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle] at the South County Rod & Gun Club will have to pass background checks.

“The weapon will be held, and the winner given a certificate,” Smiley said. “That certificate will be redeemable at the gun shop that donated the weapon. After the winner passes both state and federal background checks and has waited the required week, they will take possession of the weapon.”

4. More guns:

The response from some members of the Rhode Island General Assembly was to eschew “thoughts and prayers” and engage with smart policy and legislation.

“Tomorrow, I will introduce a bill to ban assault weapons in Rhode Island,” said Rhode Island State Senator Joshua Miller (Democrat, District 28, Cranston). “I understand the urgent need to end gun violence in Rhode Island, and believe that by banning military style weapons we are moving in the right direction.”

“Gun violence is a full blown public health crisis. We need to take quick and decisive action to protect our people,” said Rhode Island State Representative Jason Knight (Democrat, District 67, Warren). “It will take a multi-pronged strategy that includes banning the sale and ownership of assault weapons. There purpose goes far beyond defense of self and home. There is no place for them in civil society.”

“It’s beyond time Rhode Island takes action. High-capacity magazines turn already powerful guns into weapons whose sole purpose is to incur multiple deaths and injuries as quickly as possible,” said Rhode Island State Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence). “They are illegal for hunting, and they are unnecessary for protection. They are a tool that enables mass shooters to carry out their heinous acts, leaving countless victims dead every year, and there’s no valid reason to allow their use and sale here in Rhode Island.”

“This is a common-sense limit that is meant to prevent mass shootings,” said Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence), a cosponsor on the bill. “The ability to fire many bullets without reloading is one element that enables shooters to keep going. High-capacity magazines are a tool that is creating scores of innocent victims, particularly children in school shootings, and they should not be legal.”

“High-capacity magazines enable mass murderers, said Senator Joshua Miller (Democrat, District 28, Cranston). “Of all the gun reforms we should make, this one shouldn’t be that hard. You can’t go duck hunting with more than three bullets in your gun in Rhode Island. Are human lives not worth at least as much?”

“No law-abiding person has a need to rapidly fire off more than 10 rounds without reloading,” said cosponsor Senator Cynthia Armour Coyne (Democrat, District 32, Barrington). “High-capacity magazines are an open invitation for tragedy, and we shouldn’t wait for one of those tragedies to happen here in Rhode Island before we act.” Coyne is a former Rhode Island State Trooper.

“I understand the need to change hearts and minds on important issues, but how many hearts are going to stop beating before we take meaningful action?” asked Senator Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown). “Common-sense gun safety measures are supported by the majority of people in our state.”

The response from General Assembly leadership was to stay silent as they counted blood-soaked NRA campaign contributions behind closed doors.

5. Reproductive rights:

Planned Parenthood announced a “sweeping plan” to “push initiatives that expand access to reproductive health care in all 50 states.”

In Rhode Island, that effort takes the form of the 2018 Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA), introduced by Representative Edith Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence) and State Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence). The RHCA, said Ajello, would “protect a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion in our state — and safeguard it against threats from the Trump-Pence administration. It would also repeal a number of restrictions passed in recent years since Roe v Wade, most of them enjoined by the courts but nevertheless still on the books.”

Ajello was speaking on a press call to announce the new Planned Parenthood initiative. She was the only elected official in the country speaking on the call.

6. More reproductive rights:

At the Rhode Island State House on Tuesday, reproductive rights activists and volunteers offered legislators Mardi Gras beads in three colors; the color to be determined by where they stand on “Reproductive Freedom” and the 2018 Reproductive Health Care Act. Blue beads were for Justice. Green beads for Faith. Gold beads were for Power.

The outreach went well, mostly. Good conversations were had with Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi. Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello brushed off attempts to talk to him about the bill.

Anti-choice lobbyists Barth Bracy from Rhode Island Right to Life and a lobbyist priest from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence hovered nearby, shoring up anti-choice support with legislators approached by pro-choice advocates.

7. Even more reproductive rights:

On Valentine’s Day/Ash Wednesday Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence led an anti-choice rally outside of Planned Parenthood in Providence. The Bishop seems really down on Valentine’s Day, writing that, “the church is not inclined to grant a dispensation from the obligations of Ash Wednesday, the obligation to fast and abstain from meat. You want to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Go for dinner the night before, Mardi Gras, or on some other enchanted evening. But Ash Wednesday belongs to God, and it shouldn’t be taken away from him.”

Here’s a thought: maybe God would be cool with you spending quality time with a loved one…

Also, had Tobin’s anti-choice rally been properly announced I could have easily planned a counter-protest.

8. Something I wrote on Facebook people seemed to like:

I often enter spaces where I am one of the few or even the only white, cisgendered male in the room. In doing so I have to understand a fundamental truth: I should not be trusted by the people there.

This is hard for people like me to understand. I’m a good person, I have the best intentions, I want to help, I’ve never harmed these people.

I, I, I, I…

See what happened there? I made it all about me, my feelings, my expectations, my needs. In the grand scheme of doing what is right and trying to be a good ally, my feelings, expectations and needs do not matter. If they did, my presence would not be serving anyone but me.

So I enter the room with as few expectations as I can. I am there to listen, learn. These spaces are not times for me to ask questions, or educate myself. I can do that later, with people who I trust and who trust me. I can, for instance, look up “cisgender” on Google. I can understand that the word “undocumented” is preferred to “illegal.” The word resident is always better than the word citizen. I can learn new pronouns and new words and in the process maybe even learn new ways to think and be.

The experience is intoxicating and beautiful.

And as for help, as a reporter I can quote, accurately and without editorializing, the actual words people use when talking about their issues. I can let people who have difficulty in accessing the media speak through my work. I can offer people space on my site to reach an audience if they want.

But I don’t insist that they do. I don’t give advice on how to do activism. I don’t tell people how to conduct their business, what words to use, or how to tailor their message to make people like me comfortable because there is no “right way” to overthrow oppression.

For instance, my privileges and prejudices tell me to eschew violence, which is easy to say when the baton isn’t crashing on my head and the bullets aren’t savaging the organs of my children. I’m not a better person for my pacifism because many communities are fighting for their very lives against systems of oppression that are literally invisible to people like me, and my espoused pacifism makes me a poor ally if things go bad…

So I approach all this with openness. I want to learn. And I want to help.

I. I. I…

…need to get out of my own way first.

9. Rent Control:

On Valentine’s Day, Madonna Trottier showed me around the house she and her husband Butch are being evicted from.

Thin, gauzy tape covers the seams that separate window from wall in some rooms. You can look outside the apartment through the space between the ill fitting front door and door frame. The ceilings leak and mice sometimes come up through holes in the baseboard of the closet.

The Tenant and Homeowner Association (THA), formed out of DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality), has a solution for situations like the Trottier’s: Rent Control. The group has crafted a  ordinance, which, among other things, would regulate annual rent increases on private market apartments in Providence, entitle tenant’s to renewable, year-to-year leases, and establish a 9-member rent board to oversee the administration of the policy.

The THA is currently gathering signatures, as per the Providence City Charter, to introduce the ordinance to the Providence City Council to be passed without amendment. If the council declines passage, the THA will collect the subsequent required signatures to make rent control a ballot question in Providence in the November elections.

10. Gentrification:

Cris Potter is back with a piece about segregation, gentrification and the fight for Senate District 5.

After outlining the history of racist housing practices in Providence, Cris writes,

“My challenge to anyone that is running:

  • Make it clear how you plan to address the needs of your constituents.
  • Explain how you plan to balance what is good for the state with what is good for the district.
  • Finally, display some awareness of the legacy of racial bias that has helped create these issues.

Cris promises his next piece won’t be about the Senate Race in District 5.

11. The Woman Project Interviews Deb Kopech, Huddle Organizer:

“The concept of reproductive freedom for me is larger than the issue of abortion. Growing up in a world with gender inequality, I have come to the determination that this issue is the last great battle to deny women what men have. Men have reproductive freedom in a way that women cannot have. Lately, when I discuss the state legislation with someone, my position is that reproductive freedom is about believing that women are smart enough, emotionally stable enough and compassionate enough to be left alone to make their own decisions. If people don’t believe that, then they don’t believe in gender equality and I find that more dispiriting than anything else.”

12. The New York Times profiles local activist Justin Boyan:

“For years, Justin Boyan worried about the effects of climate change but focused on his wife, his two daughters and his work as a computer scientist in Rhode Island. Then Donald J Trump became president, and Mr. Boyan was jolted into political activism.

“Within days of the election, Mr Boyan began volunteering for the Working Families Party, a liberal political organization focused on income inequality, and attended almost weekly protests to voice his dismay. He traveled to the Women’s March on Washington with his family the day after inauguration, protested Mr. Trump’s travel ban at the Rhode Island state capital, and began studying criminal justice issues, which he connects to climate change as two issues where policy makers, he believes, have put the demands of big-money contributors over the needs of ordinary people.

“The same energy motivating Mr Boyan is bursting out at demonstrations and town hall meetings across the country. Protesters who had focused on issues like police shootings of black people, a $15 minimum wage and climate change are collaborating against a common foe, President Trump. In cities and states, activists are exchanging civil disobedience tactics, pooling financial resources and showing up to demonstrations about issues that they may not have previously focused on.”

13. Invenergy!

“In other words, while it is true that Invenergy could file a similar complaint in the future, Invenergy will not be doing so,” asserted Invenergy Attorney Mark Russo, promising that the company would not seek to save millions of dollars through a court action it already attempted once. Invenergy seeks to build a $1 billion dollar fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the heart of the pristine forests of north west Rhode island.

“How stupid does Invenergy think the people of Rhode Island are?” asked Conservation Law Foundation Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer in response.

“Invenergy is asking the Town (and the Energy Facilities Siting Board) to trust that they will not to refile their cost-shifting suit,” wrote Burrillville Attorney Michael McElroy responding to a question from the Public Utilities Commission‘s Patti Lucarelli. “However, it is difficult for the Town to put trust into Invenergy’s promises, especially because Invenergy has recently defaulted on its obligation to make a $500,000 payment to the Town that was due under the Tax Agreement on January 15, 2018, and was not paid as required.

Invenergy Attorney Michael Blazer responded that most of what McElroy wrote “is not responsive to [the] question, is irrelevant surplusage and, to a large extent, is inaccurate. We request that all of that be stricken from the record of this proceeding.”

Needless to say, the term “irrelevant surplusage” is redundant.

14. More Invenergy, kind of:

When it comes to Invenergy’s proposed power plant in Burrillville or National Grid‘s proposed LNG liquefaction facility in the Port of Providence, self-professed environmentalists Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, Rhode Island) are steadfastly clinging to a neutral position, telling activists and affected residents to “trust the process.”

When it comes to President Donald Trump and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke‘s offshore drilling plan, Raimondo and Whitehouse say they are opposed.

Here’s the thing, though: Zinke is also engaged in a “process.” Everything Governor Raimondo and Senator Whitehouse have been saying to the public about their neutrality regarding Invenergy’s power plant could conceivably be said by Secretary Zinke about offshore drilling.

Both Raimondo and Whitehouse tell us to trust the process. Zinke has a process too Complete with public meetings, environmental impact statements and a decision making body.

-Just in case you don’t trust the process, you might want to be at this event on February 28:

The People’s Hearing: Against Oil Drilling in New England

15. Peace! Or at least less War…

“Whitehouse and [Senator Jack] Reed did not support Rand Paul‘s motion to have a vote on whether our wars in multiple countries there are properly authorized,” wrote Jonathan Daly-LaBelle and David Oppenheimer, who organized an action outside Whitehouse’s downtown Providence offices. “What are their views, what limitations will they seek, as Congress considers action on the stretched beyond credibility 2001 and 2002 Authorized Use of Military Force Resoluton? How about [Representatives James] Langevin and [David] Cicilline – are they for unchecked war across the globe?”

16. 100 percent renewable energy:

Last August, Mark Jacobson, a renewable energy expert and senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, was the leader of a study that identified how 139 countries around the world could obtain 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2050.

His new study answers critics.

17. Carvell Wallace explains Why Black Panther Is a Defining Moment for Black America

Black Panther “is steeped very specifically and purposefully in its blackness. ‘It’s the first time in a very long time that we’re seeing a film with centered black people, where we have a lot of agency,’ says Jamie Broadnax, the founder of Black Girl Nerds, a pop-culture site focused on sci-fi and comic-book fandoms. These characters, she notes, ‘are rulers of a kingdom, inventors and creators of advanced technology. We’re not dealing with black pain, and black suffering, and black poverty’ — the usual topics of acclaimed movies about the black experience.

I will be taking time off to see this movie. Please don’t do anything too interesting this weekend, Rhode Island, but I’ll try to be there if you do.

18. Picture of the week:

Lilian Calderon

That’s it for this week, see you soon, I’m sure.


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About Steve Ahlquist 659 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

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