A First Person Account of the Wyatt Detention Center Protest

Pepper spray is an amazing crowd dispersant – I can attest to that. My wife and I took part in the recent rally in Central Falls to shut down the Wyatt Detention Center, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) incarcerates victims of the vile and racist Monstrosity in Chief’s immigration plan.  

The Wyatt Detention Center is a for-profit prison in Central Falls, a working class RI city just north of Providence with a large Latino community. Off main street is a lovely soccer field and playground. Directly across is the detention center, a brutal high rise cement block. It is surrounded by layers upon layers of gleaming razor wire. A large sign on the gate announces prison guard job openings. 

That night, I stared up at multiple floors of small fogged-up slotted windows and saw people inside. Each window seemed to have at least three inmates. They began to make messages in block script scribbled onto what looked like a paper towel, waving or flashing lights to attract our attention. The signs were hard for me to read, but someone with better eyesight told me what they said: “Help” and “No food.”  

The Wyatt Detention Center has been in business for a while. Not every prisoner there is an incarcerated immigrant. But recently the facility contracted with ICE to house immigrants “rounded up” in raids ordered by the fascist gorgon that soils the White House.

The sheer perversity of a system – capitalism – that can make an industry of imprisonment! How low must low-road capitalism go before reasonable people acknowledge the incipient evil of the practice?

So we gathered in Central Falls to decry this abomination. To shut it down ostensibly, or at least be arrested in the process. Here is what happened:

I was there along with a group of protesters. A black pickup truck suddenly appeared, swerved into a parking lot at high speed and drove directly into a large crowd of people. The truck stopped momentarily, then lurched forward again at high speed into the panicking crowd of people trying to leap out of the way of the truck. I saw a girl get hurt. The truck then stopped and as the crowd scattered to help people who had fallen, someone began the chant, “The whole world is watching… the whole world is watching…” The crowd gathered around the truck yelling at the driver, “Shame…shame…” Suddenly a large cloud of pepper spray was released into the crowd. It went directly into people’s eyes and many required medical attention. People used bottled water to flush the stinging toxic gas from their eyes – passing napkins and whatever else they could find to try to clear the fumes. People were coughing, retching. Anyone with asthma was in instant medical danger from this “non-lethal weapon” – pepper spray is a poison gas. It even affected the correctional officers and ICE agents who appeared and eventually created a barrier across the entrance of the parking lot. The driver and his truck were allowed to pass through. 

No effort was made by either the RI State Police or the Central Falls Police to apprehend the driver who had attempted vehicular homicide and reckless endangerment. 

In my view, ICE is a government paramilitary complete with detention centers, under the direction of a hate-filled sociopath, that picks people up off the street and puts them away indefinitely, often effectively without legal recourse.

If you’ve ever wondered how normal Germans could have lived day-to-day knowing what was going on in the concentration camps, just look around you now. There is nothing so perverse as the normalization of the abyss. But this is what happens, in small ways very day.  

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