Notes from RI Rights Meeting Sat. Feb. 7, 2015 1PM Rochambeau Library, Providence
RI Coalition to Defend Human and Civil Rights
Present: Chris Currie, Pat Fontes. Cathy Orloff, Patricia Raub, Randall Rose.
- Police cameras, pro or con? — Cathy read a short Letter to Editor from a Peter Ruggieri. One suggestion is that we should oppose more police cameras until there are clearer privacy guidelines: how long are the photos stored? To whom can they be released? It was noted that you can take pictures (and sound video?) with smart phones now. This raised the case of John Prince, of DARE, who saw some men putting some women into a car, and from his own yard recorded that on his phone; the men were plainclothes police, who jumped over his fence, tackled him to the ground, grabbed his phone and erased what John had just recorded. They told him it was an unmarked police car and they did not want to “blow the cover.” It was suggested that somebody call John and see what’s happening with him and his case.
- Drones letter — Cathy brought up our demonstration outside the U.S. Marshal’s office in downtown Providence last November, during which we went inside and delivered a letter to the Chief Marshal, asking about their policy on drones, which are being used by the Marshals to track suspects, etc. Our letter asked about privacy protections, etc. We received two non-answers, the second one saying that under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act, ironically, they don’t have to respond to our questions! But we can reformulate them by describing the records that we are seeking! Randall forwarded these to to the ACLU about a month ago; he will follow up.
- Demonstration Ferguson, MO — re shooting of unarmed black youth; RI Highways blocked. Randall said 7 demonstrators were arrested; 6 for blocking I-95, 1 for spray-painting an unmarked police car and identifying it as a police car. One person plea bargained and got community service; 4 went to trial, some pled guilty and got community service. There are 3 more trials coming up. Since then 2 bills have been introduced in the Legislature: 1 by Raptakis and Hall would make it a felony to block any state or federal highway, by standing, sitting, kneeling or loitering in order to interfere with traffic or distract motorists. This would have a mandatory sentence that can’t be suspended. (15 people spoke against this, including Planned Parenthood, even tho they have protests, and homeless advocates. 2) by Rep. Canaria, would make it just a misdemeanor, and limit it to freeways. Noted that Smith St., Douglas Ave., and many other main roads are State Hiways, and this is too severe. Most opposed both bills. The fight isn’t over, stay tuned.
- Letter to Editor re: torture — In January Cathy said she would write one; she read her draft and got good feedback. Will send to people at today’s mtg. and perhaps also to The List before submitting.
- Immigrant Rights — Question was raised whether Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls has any persons being held on immigration charges?* Note from Patricia Raub: Although there was talk early last year that the City of Central Falls was pursuing a renewed contract with ICE for the Wyatt detention. Since then, though, there’s been nothing made public and the rumors are that there will be no contract.
- No Fly Lists — An article on Reader Supported News about a Muslim person who could not get back into the US because he had been put on the list, but no-one would tell him why he was on it. The government effectively exiling people from their homes in this country for secret reasons. Question of whether this person was a citizen? Unknown. Should this be a RI Rights issue?
- Racial Profiling — A state bill will be re-introduced this year. There is also a Providence bill*. Not great prospects for these bills. Question: does RI do stop-and-frisk as in New York? Answer unknown. Also noted that asset seizure was a big problem in Ferguson. White police taking money from black citizens; against the 5th Amendment.* Note from Patricia: Providence Racial Profiling Ordinance: The Providence City Council is considering a racial profiling ordinance. http://wpri.com/2014/06/20/providence-city-council-introduces-anti-racial-profiling-act/ At this point, the ordinance is still pending, with the support of 6 councilors. With the leadership change in the Council the bill is expected to start to move. Stay tuned for more information, as we will want to come to City Hall to support the measure when it is reintroduced.
- Drones — National Lawyers Guild gave a talk on drones. It’s not clear if they are legal or not. FAA hasn’t given a Certificate allowing regular people to fly drones or model planes above 400 feet, but it has given Certificates to law enforcement, research groups, corporations, etc. Has approved their flying over Cape Cod. In RI there are more bills coming up to restrict drones. It seems the bill by Rep. Tanzi would be a minimum that we could support. There are some legitimate uses of drones: search and rescue, news agencies, farmers checking out their crops, etc. Last year a bill drafted by the ACLU covered only law enforcement drones at state and local level. It said: 1) no weapons on drones 2) a public hearing is required for any police dept. to use drones for surveillance. 3) The police must get a court order, except for emergencies, and state the purpose of surveillance; 4)the people targeted must be notified;5) people can sue re: drone problems; and 6) police must delete data after a certain time period. Comment that the horse is already out of the barn re: drones. Response that sometimes people have succeeded in getting the horse back in the barn! Another problem is companies that harvest data from drones and use it for commercial purposes. For example, drones can see into your house, so they could note your furniture and then sell that data to a furniture company which could advertise to you individually!
- Net Neutrality — Congress probably won’t stop the ongoing proposed practices.
- Announcements — Chris said the RI Progressive Democrats are scheduled to meet here at Rochambeau “this Monday,” which was Feb. 9. However, it may be cancelled due to snow.
- Next RI Rights meeting —Sunday March 15 1:30PM at Starbucks, see note below.* Cathy O.* Note from Patricia: The Starbucks in the Santander Bank building, 1 Financial Plaza (next to the RISD Library and across from the Turk’s Head Building) is open Sunday afternoons. I think we decided we’d meet in its food court if it was open on Sundays, since we scheduled our next meeting for Sunday, March 15. Walk past the serving counter and out the side door into the enclosed court area to reach the tables where we will meet. Any chance we could schedule the meeting for 1:30? I don’t ever seem to make it by 1:00.
Cathy’s last word: Since 1:30pm is fine with me, I took the liberty of unilaterally changing the time above to 1:30pm!