By LAURA WEICK and DANIEL KITTREDGE After riots raged in Providence overnight from Monday into Tuesday, Rhode Island officials urged citizens to find peaceful ways to fight injustice and said added steps are being taken to prepare for any additional
After riots raged in Providence overnight from Monday into Tuesday, Rhode Island officials urged citizens to find peaceful ways to fight injustice and said added steps are being taken to prepare for any additional unrest.
Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, meanwhile, issued an order Tuesday afternoon imposing a curfew for the city starting at 8 p.m. that night through 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Gathered at the interaction of Francis Street and Finance Way in Providence, Gov. Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Col. James Manni addressed the looting and violence that took place – seeking to clearly distinguish it from the peaceful demonstrations held over the weekend.
“What we saw last night was not a protest,” Raimondo said. “It was not a protest. What we saw last night was an organized attack on our community at a time when we are already vulnerable.”
Rumors circulated on social media Tuesday that Cranston’s Garden City Center and the Warwick Mall might become new targets for rioters. Garden City on Tuesday afternoon announced via Facebook that all of its stores would close at 4 p.m. that day as a safety precaution.
During her regular COVID-19 briefing later in the day on Tuesday, Raimondo expanded on the Providence rioting, calling it a “coordinated, criminal attack on the people of Rhode Island.” She said Rhode Island State Police are working with federal officials and Massachusetts law enforcement to determine who precisely was behind the previous night’s chaos, suggesting the “hundreds” of participants were “led and funded by someone or some group.”
Asked about the Garden City and Warwick Mall rumors, she added: “It’s hard to know what are legitimate threats … We are assuming, based on what you’re seeing around the country, that they’re could be more, and we’re just increasing our response.”
The governor also sought to reassure anxious Rhode Islanders, including those in suburban communities, that the state will be prepared. She said more information about how the National Guard would be deployed, and whether a curfew would be instituted, would be issued later Tuesday, after the Herald’s press time.
“If you’re at home … in Cranston, Warwick, Johnston, wherever, and you say, ‘I’m afraid,’ I want you to not be afraid. We are going to do what it takes to keep you safe,” she said. “I can’t necessarily prevent bad things from happening, because they may. We are in an unprecedented period of unrest in this country right now. But I will assure you that we will be ready. We will spare no resource.”
During the earlier press event in Providence, Raimondo said many small businesses that were already struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic were destroyed by the riots, and that state commerce officials will check in on these businesses.
Hundreds of National Guards members will be deployed to assist police officers in the state, according to Raimondo. Providence Police have also received help from neighboring police stations, including Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Johnson and Warwick.
Raimondo then explained that the combination of a global pandemic and racial tensions have made the aftermath of the riots even more severe.
“This is a pivotal moment in our history, as a state and as a country,” Raimondo said. “I don’t know if any of us have lived through anything like this.
According to Elorza, 65 people were arrested during the riot. Thirty-five of those arrested were from Providence, 25 from other places in Rhode Island and only five from out of state. Elorza was proud of how law enforcement handled the riots, saying that they acted in a professional manner to control the incidents.
Elorza said that he is considering instituting a city curfew due to the riots, and will discuss the matter with state police and Raimondo. He explained that police brutality against African Americans needs to be stopped, but can only be done through ways other than violence. Elorza mentioned how African Americans in particular are more likely to have poor health outcomes, education outcomes and live in heavily-policed neighborhoods due to systemic oppression.
“As we think about going forward, let’s not forget the important and difficult community conversations that have to take place to confront racial discrimination in all of its different forms,” Elorza said. “Many people are reaching out and asking, ‘How can I help?’ Well we can all help in our individual ways, but I want everyone to be conscious, to think about it and to talk about all of the structural inequalities we have.”
Raimondo and Elorza then allowed reporters to ask questions. When asked if the state and city were caught off guard, Raimondo said that she and Elorza had made preparations prior to the riot.
Raimondo, Elorza and Manni all emphasized that the community needs to come together in order to address injustice and inequality.
“They’re not here because they care about ending racism in our community,” Raimondo said. “Those are not the Rhode Islanders who live in our community, who all need small businesses, who worship in our churches, who are fighting the fight day after day to bring about a more peaceful Rhode Island. That’s on us, the people of Rhode Island who live here and who live in this community. And so I’m with you to get more fired up and sit at the table with you. I see you all here. Let’s get to the table and get back to work, to find real solutions, to end the racism and inequality, and let's stand against these violent folks who are coming in here to agitate and destroy our community. Not in our state.”