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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Escalating nationwide wave of protest against racism reaches Providence

Vandalism and looting in Providence Monday night

Providence endured a night of vandalism, attempted arson and clashes with the police early Tuesday morning which resulted in 65 arrests and an unknown amount of property damage. 

The rioting was in response to the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“Under a dozen” police officers were injured, said Providence Police Commissioner Steven Paré, adding the the injuries were mostly minor. The Providence Police were assisted by Rhode Island State Police and police from surrounding communities.

Of the 65 arrested, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said that 35 were Providence residents, five were from Massachusetts and an additional 25 were from Rhode Island cities and towns other than Providence.
“Last night’s incidents were devastating for our community who has already experienced so much unrest and pain,” said Mayor Elorza in a statement. “Violence is never the answer and we need collective action— one that is productive, not destruction of our small businesses, who have been impacted so much already and by putting others safety at risk.

“Now is the time to focus on finding safe ways to be allies with our Black neighbors and to come together to support our business community as they rebuild and we all recover.”

At about 1am between 200-300 people “all of a sudden” wanted to get into the Providence Place Mall said Commissioner Paré. But “we were given notice and we were prepared.” 75-100 people got into the Mall and began vandalizing and looting. Between 12 and 18 businesses were hit, including some on the second floor.

“Last night wasn’t just an attack on brick and mortar establishments, it was an attack on the spirit and good name of our City, said Providence City Council President Sabina Matos. “It was an attack on our neighbors. It was an attack on the progress so many of us are working to achieve.”

Mayor Elorza said he has been in contact with Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo about next steps, and will be in further contact throughout the day.

“We are at a critical moment in American history, and our actions today can set the course for a more just and equal society tomorrow,” said Governor Raimondo in a statement. “But if we let violence give rise to more violence, then that opportunity will be lost. What happened in Providence last night was unacceptable. It was criminal. It put lives at risk. And those responsible will be held accountable.

“To those in Rhode Island and around the country who are expressing your outrage and pain through peaceful protest: I hear you. Let’s rise above the hate, rise above the fear, and work to root out racism on an individual and institutional level.”

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.

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