Governor Gina Raimondo, Mayor Jorge Elorza and RI State Police Colonel James Manni held a press conference today at 11:30am, briefing the press on the actions they are taking after last night’s attack in Providence.
“What are saw last night was not a protest,” said Governor Raimondo this morning. “What we saw last night was an organized attack on our community.” She continued, stating that people showed up with weapons with the intent to do violence, disrupt and destroy. Raimondo announced that the Commerce Department would be doing a walkabout to survey businesses. The attack struck, Raimondo said, “small businesses that were just getting back on their feet after being closed for a couple months from the coronavirus epidemic.”
While no detailed measures were announced today, the governor did announce she is activating the Rhode Island National Guard to help with law enforcement in the days to come. “As your governor, it is my responsibility to keep you safe and that’s what I’ll do,” said Raimondo. She added that the people from last night would be held accountable for their actions. She and other state leaders were putting all the options on the table, including a curfew. The governor declined to confirm whether a curfew would be instated, saying they wanted to be sure it would be effective.
Mayor Elorza concurred, and noted that as early as 5am community members were arriving to help clean up from the attacks. “They just want to help,” he said of community and elected officials who reached out to him. “They just want to be part of the solution.”
Colonel Manni today repeated that Providence and State police were not caught off guard by last night’s events. Law enforcement had intelligence that said something might occur late last night at the mall. Manni noted that the video from Minnesota of George Floyd made him sick, and added that last night was not a protest over that. Manni demurred on the specifics of what and how they knew, saying that they have intelligence and surveillance they monitor every day. “Intelligence gathering is one of our biggest tools in law enforcement.”
Manni gave credit to Providence Police for protecting the city buildings. When asked by the press who the organizers from last night’s looting were, Manni answered they were an “organized anti-government type of people.”
The governor when asked assured that peaceful protests could still happen and she encouraged it. There is another Black Lives Matter protest scheduled for Friday. Today the governor was also asked if she supported removing the phrasing plantations from the state name, and Raimondo came out in favor of removing the word plantations, finding it offensive.
The final minutes of the press conference included Rep. Anatasia Williams aggressively asking the governor to support the black community in Rhode Island and to do more in combating racism. The governor agreed there was more work to do and invited Rep. Williams to join her and continue to do it.
The governor’s COVID-19 presser is still at 1pm as of this writing. We may update this article periodically throughout the day as more information is shared.