Providence SDS is a city-wide chapter composed of the Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Rhode Island College SDS chapters, as well as students and youth from other area universities, high schools, and the broader community. We formed in the summer of 2007 and have recently seen an increase in capacity, especially with the formation of the RISD and RIC chapters.
During the last several months, we’ve organized around a variety of issues, specifically: war and imperialism, public space reclamation, and immigrant rights. For the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, we signed on to the national SDS M20 Working Group campaign and organized a week of action. We kicked the week off with the first Providence Funk the War, funking through downtown Providence, taking over the central bus terminal and draping a “Resist U.S. Empire” banner over a war memorial! The next day we participated in a march organized by a coalition of peace groups of which we are a reluctant yet vibrant portion. On March 20th we finished the week with an occupation of a National Guard recruitment center. Outside, SDSers and other Providence activists read out names of Iraqi, Afghani, and American victims of American Imperialism. Inside eight SDSers blocked the door for almost two hours before the Providence Police arrested them. The charges resulting from this action have since been dropped.
Drawing on the success of the initial Funk the War and M20 week of action, we organized two more Funk the Wars for the Iraq Moratorium dates in April and May. Both events moved into the streets, halting traffic, drawing cheers, and befuddling the Providence police. The actions targeted the recruiting centers in Providence as well as the world headquarters of war profiteer Textron Inc. Funk the War II was particularly successful, drawing nearly 100 funkers to rove the streets of Providence with impunity. Funk the War III, poorly attended by our Brown and RISD base, who had mostly left town, was less successful. We feel this was largely due to inadequate planning caused by the stress of finals. However, the action drew many spontaneous supporters and managed to block the exit of Textron at the close of the business day.
In late March, Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri placed Rhode Island at the forefront of state-sponsored oppression of immigrants by signing an executive order mandating that state police perform the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and requiring all state employers to use the critically flawed E-Verify system. E-Verify encourages racist hiring practices and has an error rate of nearly ten percent. We have joined a coalition of community groups to oppose these actions. Over the last two months, we have participated in numerous marches and rallies, action planning meetings, and the storming of the Governor’s policy advisor’s office. We will continue resist racist, anti-immigrant policies and work to establish Providence as a sanctuary city and Rhode Island as a sanctuary state.
Over the summer, we plan to organize a series of Critical Mass rides around the state in opposition to the proposed fare increase on RI Public Transit, expand our accessible education campaign around the city, and build a coalition to fight evictions. Additionally we plan to focus on building our organization’s capacity and base by reaching out to new members, especially at universities in Providence without SDS chapters and in Providence High Schools.