This past Wednesday (9/28), residents of Providence’s East Side filled the Quaker Meeting House on Olney Street for a community forum in support of the Community Safety Act (CSA). The CSA is a proposed city wide ordinance, written and campaigned for over the past two and a half years by a coalition of four community organizations in Providence: Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), Olneyville Neighborhood Association (ONA), Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). It aims to increase police accountability and end racial profiling in Providence. Wednesday’s forum followed on the heels of a public hearing for the ordinance on September 14th, at which community members, many of whom were youth of color from PrYSM, gave testimony in front of members of the City Council.
The event on Wednesday was organized by a group of East Side residents in support of the work done by the CSA Coalition and in the name of leveraging the political power of the majority white, disproportionately wealthy East Side in favor of the CSA.
Mayor Jorge Elorza and East Side City Councilpeople Samuel Zurrier and Kevin Jackson were in attendance, sitting front and center and listening as nine community members gave testimony. Maureen Reddy, a white woman with black children, bore witness to the racist treatment of her black family members by the police in Providence; the principal of Central High School, Julia Carson, spoke to the criminalization of her students and the disproportionate police presence at Central; Ondine Sniffen, a Latina attorney, shared her personal experience being arrested during a routine traffic stop. Other speakers focused on the financial burden for the city of police misconduct lawsuits, the abundance of statistics on racism in policing in the US, and the historical context for the CSA. Some of the speakers, most of whom were white, expressed their gratitude for service they have received from the police and their desire that everyone in Providence receive the same; an undertone of “common sense policy” ran throughout.
Following the testimonies, Zurrier, Elorza, and Jackson all spoke. Jackson is a co-sponsor of the CSA and shared his strong support. Zurrier and Elorza both expressed continued concerns about some points of the CSA, but also iterated commitment to moving forward with the ordinance. “[I don’t] think there will be a problem getting this done before the end of the year,” said Elorza.
To learn more about the campaign for the CSA, visit: https://www.facebook.com/CommunitySafetyAct/?fref=ts