The Uprising, August 31, 2018

Welcome to The Uprising!

The primaries in Rhode Island are less than two weeks away, on Wednesday, September 12, so that means there’s election news!

1a. Gina Raimondo

Incumbent Governor of Rhode Island Gina Raimondo is continuing her policy not engaging in debates ahead of the upcoming primary. Her election strategy seems to be to bury her opponents, former Secretary of State Matt Brown and former State Representative Spencer Dickinson, with campaign cash spent on non-stop television ads.

Brown supporters and Democracy advocates cried foul outside WPRI/Channel 12 studios Tuesday evening holding signs that read “Gina Why Do You Hate Democracy,””No Debate = Disrespect of Voters” and “No LNGina” as inside the studios Brown and Dickinson and reporters Ted Nesi and Tim White held a Democratic gubernatorial primary debate without the incumbent.

1b. Matt Brown

Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island Matt Brown was interviewed by The Young TurksCenk Uygur on Wednesday, and Uygur drew comparisons between Brown’s progressive campaign against incumbent Governor Gina Raimondo and the upstart candidacy of Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who pulled out a surprise primary victory Tuesday.

Uygur’s comparison has angered some on Facebook, who object to comparing Matt Brown, who is white and privileged, to Andrew Gillum, who is black, and has faced and overcome racism in his political career.

Brown did not directly make the comparison, but stayed focused on Raimondo:

“She governs like a Republican,” said Brown. “She is part of the system. She takes all the corporate PAC money, all the corporate lobbyist money, the fossil fuel money, the tobacco money, all of it. And she’s working for them and not working for the people.”

“Do you think those campaign donations have an effect on her policy decisions as Governor?” asked Uygur.

“Absolutely,” replied Brown. “This is a Governor who took a donation from an energy company, a natural gas company, and then announced to the State of Rhode Island that we’re going to ‘do everything we can to make sure that this company is successful’ in building a fracked gas and diesel oil burning plant in our state.”

1c. Allan Fung

Republican gubernatorial candidate, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, angered a good number of his constituents when he tried to tie Rhode Island’s higher murder rate to undocumented immigrants. Fung said, “Unfortunately, under Governor Raimondo, Rhode Island had the highest murder rate in the region in 2016. … When I’m Governor, we will not be protecting criminals who are in this country illegally, period. We will not be a sanctuary state, and I will fight against sanctuary cities like Providence.”

Fung also signed an agreement with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agreeing to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal law enforcement, “when a criminal in custody is in this country illegally.”

Let’s be clear: There is no evidence tying any increase in homicides in Rhode Island to undocumented immigration.

In response to Fung, members of the Cranston Action Network (CAN) and allied groups rallied outside Cranston City Hall Monday night ahead of a Cranston City Council meeting to protest Cranston Mayor Allan Fung‘s “Trumpian divisive, racist, fear-based campaigning, nor with divisive, racist, fear based governing.”

In all, just over 50 people attended the two hour protest. The protest continued inside the City Council chambers, but Mayor Fung was not in attendance.


Fung will be in Burrillville for a town hall meeting on Tuesday, September 4th, 6pm, at Burrillville’s First Universalist Church.

Update: Fung cancelled


1d. Aaron Regunberg

On Wednesday evening candidate for Lieutenant Governor Aaron Regunberg met with community members in Burrillville to talk about both his campaign and his vision for Rhode Island. Burrillville is the proposed site of Invenergy‘s $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island, mentioned by Matt Brown in Item 1b above.

Regunberg was warmly greeted in Burrillville. The event’s organizer and emcee, Donna Woods, opened the event with some stirring words about Burrillville’s three-year battle against Invenergy, ending with:

“Mr Regunberg, thank you for coming out tonight. It’s with great gratitude that I introduce you. We appreciate this. Just walking in the door we appreciate. So we’re looking forward to hearing your plans for Rhode Island.”

See also: Regunberg makes pitch to Burrillville voters

1e. Dan McKee

A campaign finance report filed Thursday, August 30th with the Rhode Island Board of Elections revealed that incumbent Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee is set to receive an additional $50,000 in Super PAC spending from Stacy Schusterman, an oil and gas billionaire who serves as chair of the offshore drilling company Samson Energy. This funding comes in addition to $75,000 in spending from Wall Street millionaires Tony Davis and Andrew Boas.

“Dan McKee has shown us that he sides with corporate special interests and fossil fuel polluters over our communities and environment,” said Alex Kithes, the Politics Chair of Climate Action Rhode Island. “McKee refused to join our fight against offshore drilling here in Rhode Island. He has opposed our fight against the fracked gas power plant in Burrillville and National Grid’s profit-seeking LNG proposal in the port of South Providence. We are deeply concerned that a fossil fuel billionaire is pumping tens of thousands of dollars to shore up McKee’s campaign against Aaron Regunberg, a candidate who actually stands with everyday people in our state.

“The climate crisis poses an existential threat to humanity, and Rhode Island in particular, and our goal at Climate Action RI is to support leaders, legislation, and direct action in order to move our society towards an environmentally sustainable future. We gave Aaron our glowing endorsement early on in the Lieutenant Governor’s race, and we are acutely aware of how critical it is that our leaders not be beholden to the moneyed, dirty interests of fossil fuel moguls.”

Schusterman also spent $250,000 to support Governor Gina Raimondo‘s bid for re-election.

Do you think those campaign donations have an effect on his policy decisions as Lieutenant Governor?

Speaking of dodging debates, McKee declined a debate with Ian Donnis on RIPR, leaving Regunberg alone on the radio to explain why he should be the next Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island.

1f. Providence City Council, Ward 8

All five candidates for Providence City Council Ward 8 attended the South Elmwood Neighborhood Association‘s Meet the Candidates Forum held at Centro Cristiano de Adoración church on Elmwood Avenue in Providence. Democrats Deya Garcia, Wilbur Jennings Jr and James Taylor joined independent candidates David Talan and Carlos Diaz to answer questions from moderator Pastor Hazael Morell and the audience. Jennings is the incumbent.

One big issue is Mayor Jorge Elorza‘s plan to sell/lease/monetize the Providence Water Supply Board in order to raise the funds needed to stabilize Providence’s pension and avoid bankruptcy. All five candidates oppose the plan.

Representative Ramon Perez (Democrat, District 13, Providence) attended the forum and asked what the candidates propose to do about the pension if selling/leasing/monetizing the water is off the table. It was a heated exchange.

“We already answered that,” said Deya Garcia.

“No,” countered Perez. “I was here… no one will say they will support taking the city into bankruptcy or they will do something…”

“What will you do to help Providence get out of bankruptcy?” Garcia shot back. “We don’t have power. We are running for City Council. You are an elected official. What are you doing right now at the State House? What have you been doing… as a sitting legislator, to help the City of Providence?”

“I’m one in 75, you know that?” replied Perez. “Let me tell you something. The last time the Mayor went there [State House?], asking us to support the water [sale] I asked him, ‘Okay, you want to sell the water. But tell me what you’re doing to prevent it. You take $300 million in the pension system, what are you doing to prevent it?’ …

“And [Mayor Elorza] said, ‘You know what? I don’t know.’ And he’s the one who had four years there and I have just been there for two years.”

1g. Pawtucket City Council, Citywide

A forum held last Saturday featuring at-large candidates for Pawtucket City Council showcased a range of diverse, plugged-in and knowledgeable candidates for Pawtucket voters. Democrats Jim Chellel, Janie Lee Segui Rodriguez and Emmanuel Echevarria were joined by Independent candidates Melissa DaRosa and Rodney Barber for nearly three hours of questions.

Incumbent Democrats Albert Vitali Jr and Michael Araujo, as well as first time candidate Mark Theroux and Pawtucket School Committee member Elena Vasquez did not attend the forum, which is too bad, because the candidates that did attend were very well received.

1h. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell

John Dyer at Religious News Service has a piece on Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) and her battle against Holly Taylor Coolman, the traditional, anti-choice candidate angling for her seat:

“A mother of four adopted children, Coolman is anti-abortion. She is partly running, she said, because President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, could help overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion. She doesn’t want liberal lawmakers to legalize abortion in Rhode Island if that occurs.

Rhode Island statutes impose a near-total ban on abortions unless the woman’s life is threatened. But they’re not enforced due to Roe v. Wade.

“’A pregnancy is a unique situation in which two human lives are uniquely intertwined,’ said Coolman.

Ranglin-Vassell supports abortion rights.

“’Who am I to tell another woman what to do with her body?’ she said. ‘I believe in agency over self. I believe in autonomy. Let me give you the information you need to decide. It’s between you and your doctor.’”

2. No Guns in Schools

Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, issued the following directive:

In summary, this is an immediate and binding directive on local education agencies and local education agency personnel, in effect until such time as the underlying laws are reconciled, which:

  1. Prohibits everyone other than active law enforcement personnel from carrying firearms, including concealed-carry firearms, on school grounds statewide;
  2. Requires a protocol for active law enforcement personnel with a firearm to notify local education agency personnel upon visitation to school grounds statewide and be visibly identified for the duration of the visit.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo was by Wagner’s side when the new directive was announced, saying, “It isn’t hard: Guns don’t belong in schools. Even Mississippi bans non-law enforcement officials from carrying guns onto school grounds. As we start a new school year, our students cannot wait a minute longer for the General Assembly to take action on the Safe Schools Act. The Rhode Island Department of Education has issued a binding directive to every school district that immediately bans firearms from our kids’ schools.”

Raimondo was joined by Larry Purtill, President of NEARI; Steven Paré, Providence Commissioner of Public Safety; James Manni, Narragansett Town Manager; Katherine Kazarian, State Representative, District 63; Colonel Ann Assumpico, Rhode Island State Police; Phil Auger, North Kingstown Superintendent; Karen Tarasevich, West Warwick Superintendent and Chief James Mendoca, Central Falls Police in lauding the new directive.

3. No LNG in PVD

Monica Huertas, campaign coordinator for No LNG in PVD, along with area residents and other community and environmental organizations, held an action outside the National Grid facility near the corner of Allens Avenue and Terminal Road on Thursday afternoon to bring attention to the $180 million, fracked, liquefied natural gas compressor station Grid is trying to build in South Providence. No LNG in PVD sees the project as “a clear example of environmental racism, as all 11 of the Environmental Protection Agency‘s identified toxic polluters in Providence are already in this zip code, which is predominantly low-income people of color.”

The action had the support and attendance of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Brown, who is challenging incumbent Governor Gina Raimondo in the primary.

Huertas, who has been trying for years to get the support of Governor Raimondo in No LNG in PVD’s fight against National Grid, only to have the Governor actively undermine the group’s efforts through some shenanigans with the Coastal Resources Management Council, was happy to endorse Matt Brown at the event.

“When it was off-shore drilling, [Raimondo] went over there – she sent people over there to stop that. Now the people of Providence, the black and brown people of Providence, are telling her to stop liquefied natural gas from being built in our Port, and she hasn’t said anything,” said Huertas. “So what I’m saying is stand with Matt Brown because he’s standing with the people of Providence. Vote for him on September 12.”

4. Thomas Tobin

SNAP, the Survivors Network, the world’s oldest and largest support group for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings, had some strong words for Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence Roman Catholic Diocese.

“In recent statements to the press in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Bishop Tobin admitted that he ‘became aware of incidents of sexual abuse when they were reported to the diocese.’ However, Bishop Tobin said he did nothing about these allegations because they were outside his realm of responsibility.”

Television reporter Mike Montecalvo, of WPRI/Channel 12 asked Tobin if he should resign over what was discovered to have happened in Pittsburgh and his lack of action then.

“Why would I do that?” asked Tobin. “Again, I think I responded to these incidents very responsibly and very transparently. But I serve at the discretion of the pope. If he ever wanted me to resign, I would go in a heartbeat.”

This is the same Pope that Tobin wants investigated, according to Kevin Andrade at the Providence Journal.

“Following a letter from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that said Pope Francis knew of the coverup of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, had given comfort to a ‘homosexual current’ in the Vatican, and should therefore resign, Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has called for the pope to be investigated.

“’I need to emphasize that I do not have any privileged information about this matter, nor do I have the facts necessary to come to a definitive, impartial judgement,’ Bishop Tobin said in a statement emailed late Thursday. ‘Nonetheless, the allegations lodged by Archbishop Viganò involving Pope Francis are substantive, and need to be investigated in a prompt and just manner.

“’The future direction of the Church, its spiritual welfare, and the faith of God’s people, are at stake,’ he added.”

5. Black August

The Behind the Walls Committee at DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality) has long advocated for a series of reforms in our prison system. To that end, the committee held an event on Saturday to mark Black August, featuring “guest revolutionaries Fred Hampton Jr, Monica Moorehead, Marco McWilliams and mYia X.

UpriseRI is proud to have provided complete coverage of this important event.

DARE’s Behind the Wall Committee works towards:

  • fair chance licensing reform
  • re-entry support policies within the prison
  • limiting the use of solitary
  • access to health care (mental and physical health)
  • regulation of the use of probation violation
  • automatic expungement policies
  • expunging the records of folks with drug offenses related to marijuana
  • mandatory reporting policies
  • prison oversight
  • real rehabilitative recreational programs
  • a cap on the number of years of probation and parole
  • legislation to raise prison wages and dismantle the private prison industry

6. AFL-CIO’s George Nee to be awarded World Peace Prize

7. Hope and Change for Haiti holds first annual ‘Engage for Change’ gala

8. Ranked Choice Voting

Kevin McElroy has a piece about the possibility of ranked-choice voting in Rhode island, an idea that has become quite popular in Maine.

9. Resist Marxism

Ultra-right wing front-group Resist Marxism, in collaboration with Free Tommy Robinson US, Samson’s Liberty Page and the Republican Liberty Caucus of Massachusetts, is returning to Providence on Saturday, September 29 at 12 PM – 2 PM for another attempt at a “freedom rally.”

The last rally the groups held in Providence was not exactly a success.

10. Fane Tower

Beth Comery at The Providence Daily Dose is reminding people that the Providence City Council vote on the Fane Tower is on September 6, 7pm at Providence City Hall.

11. The Woman Project

The Woman Project interviews David Cazares, Policy Student & Community Activist

“Growing up in a low-income community, it was significant when we got our first local Planned Parenthood. At a young age I had the opportunity to hear Planned Parenthood representatives speak on reproductive freedom and the endless efforts towards legalizing a woman’s right to choose. I remember being extremely shocked this was even an issue, as it was confusing for me to understand why a women’s decision regarding her own body was even an issue. I have always believed reproductive freedom is a basic human right and given that we are in the ‘land of the free’ one would assume women are treated with the respect to make their own decisions. That is why I have always been an ally and advocate for reproductive freedom through volunteering with Planned Parenthood chapters, testifying at the State House on the issue and organizing around legislation affecting reproductive freedom.”

12. The Bartholomewtown Podcast: Robert DeRobbio

Bill Bartholomew welcomes Providence Mayoral candidate Robert DeRobbio to the loft for an in-depth conversation about his vision for Providence’s future, the key differences between himself and fellow Democratic opponents Mayor Jorge Elorza and Kobi Dennis, as well as his take on Rhode Island’s fractured Democratic Party.

13. ACLU

Groups Oppose Proposed Veterans’ Home Regs Banning Use of Medical Marijuana by Residents

“Citing concerns about the impact on veterans participating in Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program, three advocacy organizations have submitted testimony expressing strong opposition to a Department of Human Services (DHS) proposal that would ban the use of “narcotics prohibited by federal law” at the Veterans’ Home in Bristol.  The organizations are the ACLU of RI, the RI Patient Advocacy Coalition and Protect Families First. The group testimony notes that, as currently worded, DHS’ proposal would prevent resident veterans from using medical marijuana that state law explicitly allows them to use for their medical condition.”

14. Picture of the Week:


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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

1 Comment

  1. I’m actually studying Mandarin, and the sign is pretty cool, though I may not be getting all the meaning. I think it is pronounced fa feng and means “crazy” for Fung, though there is also a phrase “fa tsai” which literally means “make a fortune” 发财 but is used as “good luck!” and the fa feng may be a take off on that. should have asked the women what the sign said.

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