The Uprising, October 19, 2018

I think activism, and all the things we have done since the shooting was our way of grieving. I know, speaking for myself, that if I didn’t do anything I probably would have been in a lot worse of a place than I am.
Sofie Whitney, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Student

Welcome to The Uprising!, my weekly attempt to make sense of the chaos we call news. Let’s sort this out.

1a. Parkland

Three student survivors of the February 14

shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida which left 17 students and staff dead were on stage at Cranston High School East Wednesday evening speaking to an audience of mostly high school students about changing the world through activism. Matt Deitsch, Ryan Deitsch and Sofie Whitney were technically there to promote a book, but the conversation between those on stage and those in the audience was surprisingly intimate and soul crushingly deep at times.

Though they were there to talk about guns and youth activism, the conversation often turned to PTSD and mental health. The student activists talked about learning their activism from studying the Freedom Riders and the labor movement. They understand social media intuitively. They have all the accumulated knowledge of human kind in their pocket, and they know how to use it.

Listen:

“When it comes to School Resource officers,” said Sofie Whitney, “I t might make one kid feel safe but we know that there are kids, there are minorities and there are black and brown kids that aren’t going to feel safe with more police officers in their school. What would help students more in schools are professionals that can help them mentally and help them deal with their problems and not cause more problems and increase the school to prison pipeline.”

This exchange:

Most kids who are activists see a lot of dark, dark stuff. Me personally, you scroll through social media and there’s this endless feed of things that almost seems like – you’re losing hope, you know? -you see the bad upon the bad upon the bad. So what do you do when you feel like you’re at your end? How do you bring that hope back into the conversation?

“To be perfectly honest there would be times when we would just cry,” said Ryan Deitsch. But, “If we stop speaking out we are complacent with that system. We are allowing it to occur.”

Thank you. You guys are the leaders and inspirations of our generation.

And if you are only going to watch one video from the evening, try this one:

1b. Cranston

At a forum for Cranston City Council City-Wide Candidate a constituent asked, “Do any one of you hold a concealed carry permit to carry a firearm? If so, are you carrying now? Do you carry a firearm while attending meetings at City Hall or will you bring it to meetings if elected?”

“I do have a permit. Not for conceal but to protect my family in my own house,” said Cranston City Councilmember Kenneth Hopkins (Republican, City-Wide). “I do not carry it with me. have a whole family of state troopers that will take care of me for that.”

“I do have a conceal carry permit,” said Cranston City Council President Michael Farina (City-Wide). ” I rarely carry a firearm. I only have one as a member of a gun range to easily carry the firearm back and forth if I so choose to go to the firing range.

“I think only once I’ve ever carried in the City Council chamber in the six years I’ve had a carry permit. That was due to the fact that there were in excess of 250 people for the meeting in the small chamber and we could not secure a police officer. So personally, when there were that many people in the room, it was a very, very dynamic subject – I felt for my own safety and the council’s safety that I could take on that responsibility.

“But, post that, I made sure that when meetings were above a certain capacity we had a trained police officer, we had someone in the room that was trained, as I’m sure people realize that I’m not the most capable person in the world and I should probably not be protecting everyone.

“My goal was more about my own protection, so if I’ve got to protect myself, I’m there, if there’s that many people. That’s why I have a conceal carry permit, for situations like that.

“Oh, and after I saw the video of the New Hampshire Council President getting shot, it does kind of change your mind.”

1c. Speaker Mattiello

Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, through his campaign spokesperson Patti Doyle, said, “Unfortunately, this opposition is coming from extreme progressive groups that do not want to see a balanced approach to moving our economy forward.”

The groups Doyle was referring to are the Rhode Island National Organization for Women (RI NOW) and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV). The two groups are working together this election cycle to defeat Mattiello. Their campaign is known as Citizens for a Corruption-Free RI.

RI NOW is seeking to pass state level legislation to protect a woman’s right to choose in the event that Roe v Wade is overturned nationally. Roe v Wade is “settled law” according to conservatives like Robert Flanders and Brett Kavanaugh, so how is that an extreme progressive position? As for the RICAGV, they do not oppose second amendment rights, they simply want better laws around guns to help prevent the loss of innocent life.

“Imagine thinking being against gun violence is radical,” asked Parkland student Sofie Whitney, in reference to the Speaker’s comments.

2a. National Grid

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the addition of liquefaction facilities at the existing Fields Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility in Providence.

Here’s a piece from at US News & World report that puts this approval into perspective:

Minority Communities Near Industrial Sites Get Pollution, Not Jobs:

Blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. suffer lower rates of employment at industrial facilities yet shoulder a greater burden of the air pollution from those same facilities relative to their white counterparts, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While blacks on average hold 10.8 percent of the jobs at industrial facilities, they experience 17.4 percent of the exposure to harmful air pollution from those same sites. Hispanics, meanwhile, hold only 9.8 percent of the jobs and suffer 15 percent of the exposure risk.

Both groups hold less than 7 percent of higher-paying better jobs at industrial sites.

2b. No LNG in PVD

The liquefaction facility project has been opposed for three years by No LNG in PVD, a coalition of “neighborhood residents and committed allies” who “have fought to stop National Grid from building a liquid natural gas plant on Allens Avenue that will increase health and safety risks for residents and contribute to global climate change.”

On Monday Burrillville BASE,No LNG in PVD, the FANG Collective, the Mashapaug Narragansett Tribe and the Federation of Aboriginal Nations of America cosigned a letter to Governor Gina Raimondo asking her to withdraw her support and actively oppose the liquefaction facility in Providence and Invenergy‘s proposed fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in Burrillville.

“Despite call-in days, marches, vigils and sit-ins, you have remained silent, or actively supported these projects. We urge you to listen to the people of Rhode Island, reverse course, and join us in opposing these projects before it’s too late.”

On Wednesday about two dozen people representing environmental groups opposed to building more fossil fuel infrastructure in Rhode Island demonstrated outside Governor Gina Raimondo‘s fundraiser at The Dorrance in downtown Providence.

2c. Gina Raimondo

Though FERC made the decision, the approval of National Grid‘s liquefaction facility would have been impossible without the generous help of Governor Gina Raimondo, who made several key replacements to the membership of the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) in order to pave the way for the project.

“Obviously renewable energy is the future,” said Governor Raimondo at the opening of a solar farm in North Providence. “It’s the present, and the future and we’re not talking about it here in Rhode island, we’re doing it… We are leaders in solar… You don’t have to choose between being pro-environment and pro-business. This is both…

“Since I’ve been governor I’ve set very aggressive goals to move the state faster and further towards renewable energy.”

2d. Invenergy

Invenergy is blaming “opponents” of the project, including this author and UpriseRI, of delaying the permitting of their proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant. Invenergy actually include a print out of one of my posts about the company’s antics and included it in the filing with FERC.

Invenergy is not just arguing their particular case. They are asking FERC to look at the public’s response to fossil fuel projects in general, and asking the Commission to rule in a way that minimizes the effectiveness of local resistance to new fossil fuel infrastructure nation wide.

“To be sure, the issue is not whether [the proposed power plant] has experienced an especially litigious permitting process in today’s environment,” writes Invenergy in their filing, “but that its opponents’ tactics are increasingly common and, as such, these types of extensive delays are now the norm in New England and elsewhere. It is essential, then, that the Tariff be applied in a manner that recognizes that such delays are the norm, and not the egregious case warranting termination.”

3a. Cranston City Council City-Wide

The six city-wide candidates for Cranston City Council were at the Cranston Public Library on Thursday for a forum sponsored by the Cranston Herald and moderated by reporter Pam Schiff.

Three of the six candidates will be elected to the Cranston City Council on November 6.

Among the most interesting responses were to the conceal carry permit question (See 1b above), the question about homeless sex offenders at Harrington Hall, and the question about Mayor Allan Fung‘s promise to use local law enforcement to assist United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Farina’s answer is particularly worth listening to:

“I think Harrington Hall, as a shelter of last resort, is a place that we need in this state and unfortunately it’s the only shelter of last resort we in this state,” said Council President Farina. “Until the state finds a solution and opens another shelter of last resort I don’t think, as someone who believes in helping people, that we should just close it… It’s a very difficult problem to solve. I’d love to say ‘Shut it down,’ but then I think about the person who really needs that shelter of last resort, and they don’t have it.”

On the subject of ICE, no one participating in the forum, not even Farina, who endorsed Fung for Governor, had the Mayor’s back.

“I think that in his campaign for Governor, the Mayor’s linking of crime to immigrants is disgraceful,” said Cranston City Councilmember Steve Stycos (Democrat, Ward 1).

3b. Sene Sem

Sene Sem was born in a refugee camp and was resettled into the United States when he was a child. His mother is a survivor of war and genocide. She has since passed. He has no living relatives in Cambodia and the only family he has is in Rhode Island. In September Sem was picked up by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and faces deportation to Cambodia, a country he left as a child when his parents fled the Khmer Rouge. He does not speak Khmer, and has no surviving family there.

Sem’s spouse, Sarah Hoeuy, writes, “I have known my husband for more than 15 years. He is a loving father to his 10 year old daughter, Asia, and a devoted husband to me.”

A large collection of social and immigration justice groups have signed onto a letter calling for Sem’s release. They note the impact his absence is having on his family, including his 10 year old daughter, who is in 5th grade and is a United States citizen. “Asia just entered the 5th grade this year in the Cranston School District,” says the letter. “Only 13 days after beginning 5th Grade, her father was taken by immigration agents right in front of her. She was waiting for him, as she does every day, to greet her father with hugs. Mr Sem’s detention is having a visible, and unnecessary, negative impact over his daughter’s life.”

Sign onto the letter of support here

Petition: Stop Deportation of Sene Sem!

GoFundMe

4. Domestic Violence

The Rhode Island State House was illuminated in purple as survivors, family members, advocates, and supporters gathered to honor and remember Rhode Islanders whose lives have been lost to domestic violence. Purple is the official color of domestic violence awareness and the State House will be illuminated from October 14-20.

Though the domestic violence homicide of Michelle Berthiaume-Benvenuti occurred after the domestic violence awareness vigil was planned, the event loomed large. Her murder occurred just as Domestic Violence Awareness Month began. Many of Berthiaume-Benvenuti’s family members and friends were in attendance.

Satta Jallah, a survivor of domestic violence as well as a certified yoga instructor, author and doula, read a powerful poem entitled, “She already paid the price.”

5. Taxes

A new study released Wednesday by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and the Economic Progress Institute finds that the lowest-income Rhode Islanders pay 53 percent more in taxes as a percent of their income compared to the state’s wealthiest residents.

The study, Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States, evaluates all major state and local taxes, including personal and corporate income taxes, property taxes, sales and other excise taxes. While the top one percent of Rhode Islanders (earning over $467,700 a year) pay 7.9 percent of their income in total taxes, the lowest income Rhode Islanders, those earning less than $21,700 a year, pay over 12 percent of their income in taxes.

6. Peace

Half a dozen peace activists from the group Anti Endless War and Excessive Military Spending rallied outside Senator Jack Reed’s Cranston office on Wednesday.

7. RI Promise

Virginia Myers at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) blog used some of my pictures of a recent action by Rhode Island College (RIC) faculty to bring attention to the need to expand RI Promise, which provides free college education to eligible students. Right now the program only applies to the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI).

RIC is the neglected “middle child” of the state’s higher education system, says Hughes: The other public schools seem to get all the attention. The University of Rhode Island is a flagship research institution with all the associated resources and reputation, and the Community College of Rhode Island offers students the Rhode Island Promise program—two years of free education for recent high school graduates. Stuck in the middle is RIC, where faculty are paid 30 percent less than their colleagues at URI and students do not have access to Rhode Island Promise, which is restricted to community colleges. Since the Promise program was instituted in 2017, enrollment at RIC has dropped, and many believe potential students are choosing CCRI instead.

The RIC faculty were also asking for more money, to bring their salaries in line with the national average, and for the public to vote “Yes” on the education infrastructure bond.

8. Ed Achorn

Providence Journal‘s Ed Achorn sat down with Governor Gina Raimondo for an interview.

9. Bird and Lime

Scooters are back in Providence.

10a. Open Government

“In an important victory for open government, Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Melissa Long today ruled that the Rhode Island Attorney General must waive fees for any additional documents that are delivered as part of state Representative Patricia Morgan’s request for information on how the AG’s Office spent more than $50M in Google settlement funds. Citing an inherent public interest in the records, Judge Long also rejected the AG’s argument that records requestors should have to prove financial hardship in order to have fees waived.”

10b. Bus Strike

“The Providence school bus strike may be over, but the legal actions taken by three civil rights organizations last week to protect the rights of special education students harmed by the strike are not. Instead, the groups are working to ensure that parents of those students receive proper notification of their right to get prompt reimbursement for any transportation costs they incurred in getting their children to school, as well as their children’s right to compensatory education for the time they missed classes.”

11. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

Bill Bartholomew interviews:

12. Our hubris will be infamous

ecoRI.org editor Frank Carini has a strong editorial out entitled, “Only You Can Prevent an Apocalypse Now

“History will not be kind to many of us, most notably Baby Boomers, Millennials, the Joneses, and Gen Xers. We’ll be remembered for savaging the planet even though we knew better. We’ll be synonymous with selfishness. Our hubris will be infamous.”

13. Jasiel Correia

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia has been indicted, and could be removed from office by the Fall River City Council next week.

When I think of Correia, I think of the water sale that his administration oversaw between the Watuppa Water Board and Invenergy, the company that wants to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in Burrillville, Rhode Island.

Everywhere Invenergy has made a deal in and around Rhode Island, the democratic institutions that should be protecting Rhode Islanders have failed or are in some way corrupted. Think about Johnston, Rhode Island, where a conservative (traditional?) Democratic mayor virtually controls the town council and is able to pass a water deal with Invenergy with no public input or scrutiny. Think about the Narragansett Indian Tribe, where an out-of-state Chief makes decisions without consulting his tribal council. Invenergy seems to make deals with places where the chief executive is powerful enough to run the deal into the end zone before the public has a chance to give voice to their concerns. Fall River being a case in point.

I call these places compromised democracies.

14. The Woman Project

15. Picture of the week:

Matt Deitsch, Ryan Deitsch, Sofie Whitney and Halima Ibrahim

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About Steve Ahlquist 628 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

1 Comment

  1. wow, in just one week what an impressive list of great activists working on an impressive list of important issues – for gun safety, for fairer less regressive taxes, against expanding fossil fuels and for using less of them, for reproductive freedom, for controlling runaway military weapons spending, for affordable public higher education
    I could quibble here and there – for example I think there seems to be a need to better explain the LNG issue – its not enough to say “No LNG in Providence” as there already is some, I understand it is trucked in from somewhere in MA because it is needed to supplement home heating in the winter. It needs to be explained why liquifying the gas here is a worse system than the current situation.

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