Archive for the ‘ Activism ’ Category

filed under: Activism | Civil Liberties

Aaron Swartz Remembered/The Fight Against Mass Surveillance

11AM ON 20/01/2014
BY Beth Comery

internet's own boy The documentary “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” makes its premiere tonight at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Appropriately enough, the IMDb entry was written by Anonymous.

The story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two year legal nightmare.

It was just over a year ago that Aaron took his own life, and friends, family, and fellow activists feel the best way to honor his memory is to continue the fight. Demand Progress, co-founded by Aaron with Dave Segal,* is joining forces with other organizations and advocacy groups for a day of mass protest on February 11th: The Day We Fight Back.

In January 2012 we defeated the SOPA and PIPA censorship legislation with the largest Internet protest in history. A year ago this month one of that movement’s leaders, Aaron Swartz, tragically passed away.

Today we face a different threat, one that undermines the Internet, and the notion that any of us live in a genuinely free society: mass surveillance.

If Aaron were alive, he’d be on the front lines, fighting against a world in which governments observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action.

In his speech on Friday, President Obama announced that he’s giving the intelligence community until March 28th to come up with a new procedure for storing all of our metadata — saying he doesn’t think it should continue to be housed by the NSA or by individual carriers — and he’s looking for input from Congress. The President is trying to normalize the bulk collection of our metadata — the very thing that was so foreign to us just 8 months ago that it sparked international outrage.

The issue isn’t where to store this data, but should the government be collecting this data at all. End mass surveillance now.

*Segal, a former Rhode Island legislator and co-creator of the Providence Daily Dose, is currently executive director of Demand Progress.


filed under: Activism | Environment

‘Draw The Line’ Against Keystone Pipeline Protest

9AM ON 20/09/2013
BY Beth Comery

draw_the_line (9.21) On Saturday, September 21st, environmental and community groups — Rhode Island Student Climate Coalition, Sierra Club, Fossil Free Rhode Island, Brown Divest Coal Campaign, and concerned citizens — will march from City Hall to the Rhode Island State House to demand comprehensive climate change legislation as part of a national day of action to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Rhode Island activists, students, and community members will march as part of a national day of action from City Hall to the State House at 12:45pm on Saturday to demand that the Rhode Island legislature pass comprehensive climate legislation. The action will be one of thousands demanding President Obama deny the permit for Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in the most widespread day of action to date in the campaign to stop the disastrous project. At the State House, protesters will draw the line on climate action by linking arms in front of the State House, symbolizing the need for RI representatives to act to greatly reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the increasingly serious impacts of climate change in Rhode Island communities.

For more on the mysterious tar sands spills plaguing Alberta, Canada, go to July’s report on NPR. For an update on the Arkansas tar sands disaster go here. And if you haven’t watched “Gasland Part 2″ do it now. (Photo by Shadia Fayne Wood)

March from City Hall to State House, 12:45pm to 1:10pm, Saturday, September 21st, directions to City Hall


filed under: First Amendment | justice

Segal Opinion Piece At Politico On Aaron Swartz Case

8AM ON 29/08/2013
BY Beth Comery

Aaron Swartz Boston Wikipedia.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-large David Segal has written an excellent piece at Politico “What killed Aaron Swartz?” summarizing the circumstances surrounding Swartz’s suicide and bringing us up to date on the case. The news regarding the Justice Department is depressing as always. Dave highlights one detail, the importance of which was not previously understood.

With my help, he started an Internet petition in support of the little guy — this time, himself. And according to the report MIT recently released about its role in the prosecution, that petition, as it met the authoritarianism and petty vindictiveness of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and her deputies, might have effectively cost Aaron his life.

Dave was the co-creator with Swartz of the online advocacy group Demand Progress — Internet petitions play a large role in their campaigns and should of course enjoy First Amendment protection. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa found this new information troubling enough to demand a new briefing from Attorney General Eric Holder, and Senators John Cornyn and Al Franken have secured a new briefing on the case in the spring. It’s not over.

(Photo by Phil Stearns)

Providence Daily Dose co-creator David Segal is also executive director of Demand Progress, a civil liberties and government reform activist group with more than 1.5 million members. He was previously a Providence city councilman, Rhode Island state representative, and congressional candidate in Rhode Island.


filed under: Organized Labor |

New Documentary About Councilwoman Carmen Castillo

8PM ON 22/05/2013
BY Dave Segal

Beth will not be so psyched that my first post in a couple of months violates our no-Kickstarter rule, but so it goes.  (Hi, Beth!)

Did you know that the first hotel housekeeper to hold public office is on the Providence City Council?  A film team led by Margo Guernsey — an awesome left-labor organizer who I got to know right after moving to Providence — is following Councilwoman Carmen Castillo’s first three years in office to make a feature length documentary film.  You can click here to contribute to the Kickstarter.

Carmen is wonderful, and now holds the seat formerly occupied by my dear friend Miguel Luna, with whom I joined the City Council in 2003 and who passed nearly 2 years ago.

The film will be guided by cialis cheapest online prices questions such as: How does her role as a room attendant who is also a  lawmaker push our understanding of who should set policy?  Can local communities successfully fight for good jobs and resources?  What is it like behind the scenes at City Hall?

Carmen is one of many fighting for justice in her community. The film will introduce others who are part of efforts to bring justice and good jobs to the neighborhood, and will explore the challenges and issues they all face. Above all else, this is  a film about our democracy: who gets to participate and on what terms.

Documentary filmmaking is not cheap, even when done on a tight budget. It is a grassroots film that needs grassroots support.  It’s about 3/4ths of the way to $20,000, with a week to go.  Click here to kickstart the film and help tell this Providence story.


filed under: Activism | Politics

Langevin To Be A Presence At State Of The Union Address

8PM ON 08/02/2013
BY Daily Dose

guns Congressman Jim Langevin will be using the President’s upcoming State of Union address to make a statement of his own. According to an article in today’s New York Times“A Personal Quest To Make Guns’ Toll More Visible” — Langevin, in a wheelchair since age 16 when his spinal cord was severed by a bullet, hopes to influence the national gun conversation.

For the past month, he has been on a quiet campaign to persuade his colleagues to give up their guest passes to next Tuesday’s State of the Union address by President Obama so that victims of gun violence can attend.

That way, he said, when the nation’s highest officeholders look up from the floor of the House to those watching from the gallery, they will not be able to avoid seeing the human toll that guns can exact.

“It’s a powerful reminder to every member of Congress how pervasive this issue is,” he said the other day as he pulled his electric wheelchair up to a coffee table in his district office. So far he has nearly 20 takers, and many more who are considering the idea.

(Detail of Boris Bally monument at Memorial Park on North Main Street)


filed under: Activism | Social Justice

Harry Belafonte Keynote Address — MLK Jr. Series

8PM ON 28/01/2013
BY Daily Dose

harry belafonte (1.29) The public is invited to hear Harry Belafonte discuss life as an “Artist as Activist” in his keynote lecture for RISD’s 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. series.

We are excited to announce that Mr. Harry Belafonte will be delivering the keynote address for this year’s MLK celebration series. He will be speaking on the role of “artist as activist” while reflecting upon his life and long history as both an incredibly successful singer and actor and highly influential political, humanitarian, and civil rights activist. Among other things, the 85 year old Belafonte personally funded many of the activities of the early civil rights movement, stood with Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial as the latter delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech, served as a UNICEF ambassador, and has remained active in many different programs supporting hunger relief, AIDS awareness, and the need for education. Never afraid to express his opinion, he has drawn both fire and admiration for his outspoken political views. We look forward to bringing this extraordinary individual to spend time with our community.

Tickets available to the general public at the Carr House front desk (corner of Benefit and Waterman Streets).

Free, 7pm, Tuesday, January 29, Harry Belafonte, “Artist as Activist,” RISD Auditorium, 17 Canal Walk, 277.4957


filed under: justice |

Aaron Swartz Vs. The Justice Department

2PM ON 21/01/2013
BY Beth Comery

federal courthouse The Providence Journal has weighed in on the Aaron Swartz tragedy. In recent columns, both the editorial board and columnist Froma Harrop focused their attention on the “stealing is stealing” issue.

Harrop (1.20.13) asks us to compare the outcry at the excessive prosecution of Aaron Swartz to the lonely plight of a “street kid ripping off copper pipes,” writing,

What we hear is the voice of privilege: Sensitive Ivy Leaguers are to be treated more gently than thugs caught prying radios out of cars. (Anyone interested in the mental state of the drug-addled dropout?)

(Short answer: Yes. For years the members of LEAP have been very interested.)

But this is comparing apples to oranges; let’s stick with violations enforced by the federal authorities.

Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors across the country are constantly forced to prioritize their cases, allocate resources, and focus their efforts on crimes posing the greatest threat to the citizenry. So how is it that the Justice Department landed with both feet on Aaron Swartz ( he faced a potential 35 years in prison) while giving the Wall Street bankers who nearly destroyed our economy a complete pass?

The Providence Journal editorial (1.18.13) concluded,

What he is accused of was definitely a crime. And as the Massachusetts U.S. attorney’s office no doubt understood, to let cybercrimes go unpunished threatens the nation’s economy by removing incentives for creative work.

Threats to the nation’s economy? Matt Taibbi’s piece in the latest Rolling Stone“Secrets and Lies of the Bailout” — details a much greater threat to our economy. The megabanks are now bigger than ever and jam-packed with risk. And could there be a greater threat to our economy than having the Justice Department — when several banks admitted to years of laundering money for drug cartels and terroristsofficially declaring that these banks are now “too big to prosecute.”

Tomorrow night (Tuesday at 10pm) PBS Frontline will air “The Untouchables.” Learn how more than four years since the financial crisis, not one senior Wall Street executive has faced criminal prosecution for fraud. Compare their wrongdoing and special treatment to what was thrown at Aaron Swartz and ask yourself, “Who was the vulnerable ’street kid’ in this scenario?”


filed under: Activism | Civil Liberties

Demand Progress’s Statement On The Passing Of Aaron Swartz

8PM ON 16/01/2013
BY Dave Segal

sopa protest/aaron swartz We are deeply saddened by the passing of Demand Progress’s Aaron Swartz. Friends and family have issued a statement and created a memorial page, here.

Aaron was a dear friend, and an ideological brother in arms. As others have spoken to at great length, he was indeed a passionate advocate for access to information and for a free and open Internet. He believed in these things for their own sakes, but moreover as means towards the even deeper end of building a world defined by social and economic justice. He resisted the impulse to presume that he alone was responsible for his brilliance or should benefit therefrom, and he wasn’t a techno-utopian: He was a communitarian, somebody who was deeply aware of our world’s injustices and who understood the constant struggle that is necessary to even begin to remedy them. That’s why this organization exists.

We’ve worked closely with Aaron over the last two or three years, but have not known him for as long as have some others who’ve written profoundly moving tributes to him and his life’s work. We met him as a genius, but not as the boy-genius that Larry and Cory and many others knew, and we would suggest reading their pieces (below) for deeper insight into his personal and professional evolution. We first encountered Aaron through our executive director’s unsuccessful run for Congress in 2010. Aaron became a fixture in the campaign office, rigging up cheap ways to do polling and robo-calls and helping give the uphill effort a fighting chance. But it was never about just one campaign: He was honing skills and tools he wanted to use to build capacity for much broader social movements that would create fundamental, structural change. He’d taken to calling himself an “applied sociologist.” He was trying to hack the world, and we were happy to help in what small ways we could.

more »


filed under: Activism | Sadness

Sad News For Demand Progress, And Everyone Else

10AM ON 13/01/2013
BY Beth Comery

Aaron Swartz Aaron Swartz, Reddit co-founder and internet activist, took his own life Friday at his Brooklyn apartment. Swartz also co-founded Demand Progress with former Rhode Island state representative — and co-creator of the Providence Daily Dose — David Segal. Together they were instrumental in getting the Hollywood-backed SOPA bill tabled indefinitely. But Swartz’s activism had led to legal problems. The New York Times writes,

At 14, Mr. Swartz helped create RSS, the nearly ubiquitous tool that allows users to subscribe to online information. He later became an Internet folk hero, pushing to make many Web files free and open to the public. But in July 2011, he was indicted on federal charges of gaining illegal access to JSTOR, a subscription-only service for distributing scientific and literary journals, and downloading 4.8 million articles and documents, nearly the entire library.

Go to Demand Progress to read tributes to Swartz from Glenn Greenwald, Lawrence Lessig, Quinn Norton, and Cory Doctorow who described his friend as “uncompromising, principled, smart, flawed, loving, caring, and brilliant.”

[Additional Note: Take 17 minutes and listen to an interview with Lawrence Lessig on NPR's 'On Point with Tom Ashbrook.' Lessig is a professor of law and leadership and director of the Center for Ethics at Harvard University; he was a friend of Aaron Swartz and at one point served as his lawyer.]


filed under: Organized Labor |

RI Jobs With Justice Award Dinner

12AM ON 11/12/2012
BY Dave Segal

(12.13) Apologies: This post originally stated that the dinner was tomorrow, Wednesday, while it’s actually on Thursday.
Jobs With Justice is scrappy, but one of the most important and effective activist organizations in Rhode Island.  The campaign they helped lead in support of a living wage ordinance in Providence is one of the reasons I got involved in politics here and decided to run for City Council a decade ago.
Their 16th Anniversary Awards Dinner is this Thursday, December 13,  at the Cranston Portuguese Club from 6-9pm — it would be great to see all of you there.
It’s Rhode Island Jobs with Justice’s sweet 16, and you’re invited to celebrate another year of fighting together for economic and social justice.
Join us as we honor awardees:
Mike Downey, AFSCME Council 94
Mary Kay Harris, Direct Action for Rights and Equality
John Joyce, Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project
Lizbeth Larkin, Cranston Teacher’s Alliance, AFT, AFL-CIO
Steve Murphy, IBEW, Local 2323

filed under: Activism | Books

Nicholas Kristof At Brown

9PM ON 10/10/2012
BY H.L. Parker

half-the-sky (10.11) Nicholas Kristof, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, op-ed columnist for the New York Times, and co-author of “Half The Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” will lecture Thursday at Brown.

From two of our most fiercely moral voices, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world. With Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet with extraordinary women struggling there.

More at Brown Lecture Board.

Free and open to the public, 7pm, Thursday, October 11, Salomon 101, Brown University, Main Green, Waterman at Brown Street (fb)


filed under: Activism |

My Trip To Charlotte (Or A Rant About The State Of The Democratic Party)

2AM ON 10/09/2012
BY Dave Segal

Get ready for a rant.  I managed to engage in far less blogging than I’d hoped to over the course of my four days in Charlotte.  Here’s what I was left with:

The convention had its moments, for sure:  What I heard of Elizabeth Warren was very good, certainly by the standards of what you can get away with on national TV.  Her losing to Scott Brown would be a blow as big as Russ Feingold’s loss last cycle.  If genuine, incorruptible, economic populists can’t win in moderate and left-leaning districts then my continued hope for the future of our country seems particularly naive.  Feingold lost to one of the very worst hacks the Tea Party put up last cycle — one who incessantly and successfully framed Feingold as a lock-step party shill, even though he had voted against financial reform from the left (because it didn’t address too-big-to-fail), was the only vote against the Patriot Act, and even cast the sole Democratic vote to try Bill Clinton during the impeachment process in 2000.  (Though voted not to convict him.)

Scott Brown’s only legislative achievement is to have gotten a bill through the Massachusetts General Court outlawing public funding of sex-change operations for prisoners.  FOR REAL.  We shouldn’t be losing to these jokers.

Anyway, Warren is great.  But it was tragic that somebody so knowledgeable about, and dedicated to the cause of, banking reform had to bite her lip and introduce Bill Clinton, whose administration was responsible for much of the deregulation of Wall Street which precipitated the Crash and whose cast of economic “experts” spent eight years twirling though the revolving doors of Manhattan’s tallest towers only to be dredged up by Obama — helping compel him to hedge, again and again, on behalf of high finance.

more »


filed under: Activism |

And I’m Off To Charlotte

4PM ON 03/09/2012
BY Dave Segal

DNC Charlotte Convention Logo I’m en route to the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, where I’ll be doing a combination of work for Demand Progress, taking part in assorted progressive rabble-rousing, and hopefully blogging for RIFuture and the Daily Dose.

Demand Progress’s efforts to secure Internet freedom language in the Republican platform were successful: Anybody abiding by the new platform would’ve opposed SOPA and CISPA — the privacy obliterating cyber-security bill that passed the House a few months ago, but is dead (at least for now) in the Senate.  Now it’s the Democrats’ turn.  You can read more about our work on this front over here.  (Yep, that’s a link to Fox News.)

I’ll be spending a lot of time at the Progressive Central hub, sponsored by Progressive Democrats of American, The Nation, and others.  There’s an impressive series of speakers and panels which you can watch live here.

The line-up includes the likes of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Michael Dukakis, and several of our progressive champions in Congress, like John Conyers and Raul Grijalva, who’ll be speaking to critical issues that aren’t likely to get much play on the main stage: Wall Street run amok, the narrow concentration of wealth in America, corporate control of government, and more.

I’m speaking on this panel tomorrow morning:

10:15 to 11:10 Guided Discussion: We the People, Not We the Corporations—Ending Corporate Rule.

John Nichols—Moderator

Steve Cobble—Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)

David Cobb—Move to Amend

David Segal—Demand Progress


filed under: Activism | art

WaterFire Shows Solidarity For Pussy Riot

2PM ON 22/08/2012
BY Tim Blankenship

pussy-riots-putin-lights-up-the-fires-on-august-18-2012-risd-photo-by-barnaby-evans

At the recent WaterFire lighting on August 18th WaterFire fire-tenders sported multi-colored balaclavas and stoked the fires while Pussy Riot’s latest single  Putin Lights Up the Fires played for the crowd. While WaterFire’s soundtrack traditionally features classical music, and opera this punk rock song was added to show support for the three members of the band who were recently sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism” after being “arrested in March after a guerrilla performance in Moscow’s main cathedral where they high-kicked and danced while singing…

WaterFire joined a rising tide of support for the band which has included colorful protests in cities around the world, including Moscow and Belfast.

The symbolic act, which was covered by the Associated Press, was described on WaterFire’s facebook page as “a show of solidarity with the concept of artistic freedom of expression and in protest of governments worldwide that seek to stifle it.”

For more information about why you should care about the fate of three Russian riot grrls please read this piece by Keiran Dodds of The Cambridge Union Society.

(Photo by Barnaby Evans)

more »


filed under: Activism | Good Ideas

Local Hero Vanquishes Weeds

1PM ON 13/08/2012
BY Libby Kimzey

I was biking down Canal Street earlier today when I noticed something strange. The six foot tall monster weeds that have been an unwanted fixture near the Roger Williams National Park were under attack.

Dan D’Alessio, photographed here with his weapon of choice, has chosen to spend his days of unemployment tending to our public spaces. Huge thanks to Dan and all the anonymous others who every day pick up litter, water flowers and weed tree beds.

Pix after jump.

more »


filed under: Activism |

Rock The Boat

4PM ON 10/07/2012
BY Dave Segal

(7.13) Ocean State Action, Rhode Island’s leading progressive activist organization, is hosting it’s annual Rock The Boat fundraiser this Friday evening at the East Providence Yacht Club.

Please support their work and help them gear up for this fall’s elections.  You can buy tickets here.  (Student and low-income rates are available by request.)

Join us for the 7th Annual

Rock the Boat for Justice Party!

Friday, July 13 6PM – 10PM

East Providence Yacht Club (9 Pier Rd, East Providence)

Come dance the night away with OSA!

Join us for the beautiful views of Narragansett Bay AND support the progressive political work you know and love!


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