Events in Ferguson, Missouri, have led the country to engage in a long-overdue conversation about race, policing and justice. It’s easy to believe that Rhode Island will never be the topic of that conversation, but we know that’s simply not true--it has happened here before and is likely to happen again if changes are not made. Black and Hispanic drivers in Rhode Island are more likely than white drivers to be stopped and searched, even though they’re less likely to receive tickets and less likely to be found carrying contraband when they’re searched. Black Rhode Islanders are more likely to be arrested for marijuana use, even though black and white individuals use marijuana at roughly equal rates. Police departments across Rhode Island are receiving military-grade weapons and equipment in order to patrol the streets. And the race issues Rhode Island faces extend beyond law enforcement alone: a black elementary school student in Rhode Island is six times as likely as a white elementary school student to be suspended from school. At the same time, Rhode Island has made it harder to change things by imposing a photo voter ID requirement that disproportionately affects minority voters.
These are serious and troublesome issues, but there are ways you can help.
Know Your Rights.
Learn about your rights and the police, and your rights during a protest. And, if and when these rights are violated, file a complaint with the ACLU.
Make Your Voice Heard.
Know how to contact your legislators, and make sure they hear from you. Tell us what you’re interested in testifying about at the State House, and how you’d like to get involved.
End Racial Profiling.
If you witness or experience racial profiling, file a complaint with the police department’s internal affairs division or contact the ACLU. Tell your legislators and local officials about your experiences and that you want to see comprehensive racial profiling reform.
End the School-to-Prison Pipeline.
If you or someone you know has been unfairly suspended from school, tell us about it. We won’t use your information without your consent, and your story may be critical in keeping children in the classroom and out of the courtroom.
Protect Voting Rights.
Sign up to help repeal Voter ID, and protect the right to vote from future attacks.
End the Militarization of Police.
Contact your local police department and ask what military-grade equipment they’ve received from the federal government, and why.
New issues can come up with a moment’s notice, and we may need your help. If you haven’t already, sign up for our e-alerts and follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you can be involved in new efforts as they happen.
With your help, we can tackle these issues in Rhode Island.