Senator Sheldon Whitehouse held his annual summer fundraiser on Sunday at Kempenaar’s Clambake Club in Middletown. This year, unlike in the past, he and his distinguished guests and supporters were met with reminders that no one is immune from the Summer of Resistance.
Whitehouse, known throughout the country as an environmental champion, still has not answered the questions that many Rhode Island environmental activists need to hear: Will you, for once and for all, say the words “KEEP IT IN THE GROUND” and “FRACKED GAS IS NOT A BRIDGE FUEL.” Whitehouse has continually declined to take a position on the controversial fracked gas power plant proposed to be built in Burrillville and the protesters wanted to make it clear that the people of Burrillville and Northwestern RI are his constituents as well. Fundraiser attendees were greeted with the classic “No Power Plant in Northern RI” and “Save Burrillville” signs.
The inside/outside tactic greeted Whitehouse. On the outside, about 20 activists held signs, sang songs and took part in a peaceful, respectful and uneventful protest. The lead organizers for the rally was South County Fossil Free RI who created the action – Dance at Whitehouses’s fundraiser, were joined by members from Our Revolution RI, Moveon.org and United Against Clear River Energy Center. The protesters were also joined by Chief Red Medicine, and RI’s very own Standing Rock Water protector John Gonzalez who led the event with a Native American prayer and the burning of sage, traditional drumming added to the ambience for the afternoon.
The protesters were received very well by those entering the event. Many people beeped in approval and occasionally stopped and chatted with those outside demonstrating on a very hot August afternoon. The environmental gang assembled about 1:00pm for maximum exposure and stayed for 2 hours. It was deemed to be a very successful event with the lone police officer on site probably desperate to get inside his air conditioned car and wondering why he even had to be there in the first place.
Inside the event, there were many members of the anti-power plant community ready and willing to discuss the controversial proposed fracked gas power plant with the Senator. Afterall, $60.00 for a lobster dinner should also include a quick chat with Sheldon. Whitehouse assured one visitor that he was doing everything he could in his power on the federal level that “would make this new plant illegal.” Interesting, considering getting any legislation across like that will be impossible with the current administration and their pro fossil fuel race to the bottom actions.
Senator Whitehouse is very popular, his anti-Trump stand aligns with many in the progressive community. He has worked hard to make sure that Trump Care failed and he continues to be a voice to protect Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and other important social safety nets, but that simply is no longer good enough.
Activists throughout Rhode Island are not just resisting Trump – they are resisting the status quo and are willing to step out of their comfort zone and making sure their message is heard. Many who support Whitehouse did not endorse this effort. People were intimidated, they were afraid to “embarrass” their liberal Senator. They wanted to approach the Senator via the normal channels. But for the 20 activists there, including myself, this is not time for that. We need the Clear River Energy Center and the LNG Fracked Gas infrastructures STOPPED. If not, our health will be in jeopardy, our drinking water threatened and our beautiful forests will be torn down.
Senator Whitehouse needs to take a stand. He has to tell the state and the nation that investing in additional fracked gas infrastructure must end and that this country must go to 100 percent renewable energy in the very near future.
Stepping out of our comfort zone is not a big ask, and Senator Whitehouse getting our message will let all know that we the people are not going to sit idly by and watch. We will do what’s necessary to make sure our voices are heard and no one not even our environmental champion is immune from direct action protests. Resistance is never futile.
To learn more about the great work of Fossil Free RI – please visit their website.