The Community Safety Act (CSA), a proposed ordinance that prohibits profiling not just by race but expands the list of protections to include gender identity, gender expression and housing status, passed the Providence City Council 12-0, with three city councilors absent. Prior to becoming law, the ordinance must be passed twice by the full City Council. Councilors may call a special meeting for second passage as early as next week. Then the ordinance will be sent to Mayor Jorge Elorza for his signature.
Earlier in the day, outside an event held by US Representative David Cicilline in Riverside, Elorza told reporters that he is ready to sign the CSA as it is currently constituted and said that Steven Paré, the Providence Public Safety commissioner, also supports the ordinance. At Monday evening’s Providence City Council Ordinance Committee meeting, Paré said his support was conditional on approval from Attorney General Peter Kilmartin‘s office, though Elorza’s statement might mean that is no longer the case.
— Steve Ahlquist (@steveahlquist) April 20, 2017
The Providence Fraternal Order of Police opposes the CSA, and more than two dozen police officers arrived at the city council chambers early to fill the seats before community members arrived, much to the consternation of some CSA supporters. As the crowd in support of the CSA cheered speeches from City Councilors Kevin Jackson and Mary Kay Harris in support of the ordinance, police officers in attendance were silent and sullen. When Councilor Nicholas Narducci gave a short speech praising the work of the Providence Police Department, the officers applauded.
Perhaps in response to the opposition of the police union, Councilor Harris rose and said, “There has been a seat at the table for everyone in this discussion, and that seat has been available for years.” Harris urged her fellow city councilors to pass the ordinance.
In the end the ordinance passed unanimously, 12-0. Councilors Michael Correia, John Igliozzi and Sabina Matos were absent.
In a statement, Council President Luis Aponte said, “At a time when many municipalities are seeing community-police relations deteriorate, we are fortunate to have seen the opposite effect here in Providence.” Aponte credited the Providence Police Department with providing leadership and guidance through the process of shaping the CSA.
The Step Up Network, the grass roots coalition of groups working to pass the CSA, includes DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality), PrYSM (Providence Youth Student Movement), ONA (Olneyville Neighborhood Association) and AFSC-SENE (American Friends Service Committee-South East New England).
Youth from PrYSM have been intensely involved in the campaign to pass the CSA, some for the whole time they were in high school.
“Where I lived there were always cops wrongfully targeting someone because of who they hung out with and what they look like,” said Tommy, a member of PrYSM, “I don’t want people in my community targeted because of a police’s bad day.”
“We look forward to working with the city to implement the Providence Community Safety Act,” said Sophia Wright of DARE. “We are excited to bring back to the community something we can consider a victory! A city ordinance that has a back bone. Victories are few and far between and we are overjoyed we have reached this moment. We recognize that it was only through the strength of the diverse array of voices who took the time to demand the attention of the city and to hold the city to their word throughout this entire process. the implementation process will also require the community to stay vigilant.”
National attention has been focused on the imminent passage of the CSA. Shahid Buttar of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) called the CSA “the most visionary set of policing reforms proposed around the country to protect civil rights and civil liberties, including digital liberties.” The CSA also has the attention of Change the NYPD, a coalition of 200 community groups in New York working to change police-community relations there.
— CPR Change the NYPD (@changethenypd) April 20, 2017
In the first video you can hear the vote and see the crowd reaction. In the second video is the entire town council discussion leading to the vote.