The Bell Room at the RI State House was filled to overflowing and there was still a line out the door when Rhode Island Working Families state director Georgia Hollister Isman took to the microphone to address the crowd. Hollister Isman thanked the crowd for attending during their lunch break “to say ‘no’ to hate and to resist the worst parts of the Trump agenda here in Rhode Island.” This was the first action taken by the new group Resist Hate RI, started in the Hope High School cafeteria nine days previously. “Clearly,” said Hollister Isman, “there is an appetite for a different kind of politics here in the Ocean State.”
Reverend Donald Anderson, Executive Minister for the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, was concerned about the social safety net. “President-elect Trump has promised to lower taxes on the rich and cut crucial federal funds for important programs. In Rhode Island, we need to continue to fund human needs whatever happens at the federal level,” said Anderson. “We ask our governor and legislative leaders to immediately pass legislation that triggers increases in the income tax on the highest income earners in proportion to federal cuts, and uses the additional revenue to fund the programs and services that families rely on. While Washington may lose its moral bearing and let thousands lose their health insurance, enter the ranks of the homeless, or suffer in other ways, we will respond: let Rhode Island lead!”
The crowd took up the chant, “Let Rhode Island lead!”
Rodrigo Pimentel, a DREAMer involved with the Coalition for Safer Rhodes and an undocumented resident of the United States protected under DACA, implored the state to stand up for immigrant families. “Immigrants will be in particular danger under a Trump presidency,” Pimentel said. “Immigrants like me contribute so much to our state, yet families living in our communities are at real risk of being torn apart. We call on the Governor and legislature to pass legislation making it clear that state and local law enforcement agencies will not act to detain or deport individuals for immigration violations.”
Victoria Ruiz, a former organizer with Planned Parenthood, discussed the need for state leaders to fight for reproductive rights in the aftermath of the election. “President-elect Trump has vowed to appoint justices that will overturn Roe vs. Wade and defund Planned Parenthood. The threat to women’s bodily autonomy and self-determination is real. Rhode Island needs to protect the rights of women to decide when and if they will have children, which is why we’re calling on the Governor and legislature to enact in statute a legal protection for abortion and access to birth control.”
“As we are fighting against advances in the Trump agenda, we also need to be advancing the kind of public policies that remind working men and women that government support them, and not just the insiders,” said Hollister Isman. “We know that voters are hungry for a populist agenda, let’s give them one that we know will actually lift working people up, including fighting for organizing rights, $15 minimum wage, and paid sick days.”
“We’re here because our state government needs to step up,” said State Representative Aaron Regunberg. “That means doing more than taking a wait-and-see approach to Donald Trump’s millionaire and KKK-endorsed agenda. It’s our job to make sure that this agenda does not become normal here in Rhode Island, and we commit to doing everything we possible can to starting right now to protect Rhode Island values and Rhode Island families.”
Other legislators backing Resist Hate RI’s agenda include Representatives Shelby Maldonado, Jean Phillippe Barros, Kathy Fogarty, Teresa Tanzi, and Chris Blazejewski, Representatives-elect Moira Walsh, Susan Donovan, and Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, and Senator-elect Jeanine Calkin.
After the short speaker program hundreds of attendees went upstairs to deliver letters to Governor Gina Raimondo, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President M Teresa Paiva-Weed. None of the three elected officials made the time to meet with state residents who made the effort to be there, instead letting office workers, or in the case of Governor Raimondo, Brett Smiley, receive the letters in their stead.
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