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Protesters Gather on the State House Lawn: Rhode Islanders gather in solidarity to protest the killing of Daunte Wright

Hundreds of activists and protesters gathered last night at the State House in response to the killing of Daunte Wright. Wright was killed on Sunday in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, during a traffic stop, where it’s alleged Officer Kimberly Potter fired her service weapon, which she mistook for her taser. The Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC organized the event to stand in solidarity with people in Minnesota who have protested outside the Brooklyn Corner police precinct for the last four nights.

“This country, this state is sick — sick with white supremacy,” said BLM RI PAC’s executive director Harrison Tuttle on the south State House steps. The PAC is composed of young Rhode Islanders of color, with the intended aim to end systemic racism and support progressives running for office.

Local activists are long past being simply fed up, with anger focused on law enforcement, state leaders and systemic racism. “Everything I can say to you, you already know,” said Rodney Newton, one of the speakers last night. He called for people in the crowd to aggressively combat racism and hold state leaders accountable for systemic racism. “Don’t be an ally,” he said. “Be an accomplice.”

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Other speakers encouraged more people to run for office. Miguel Sanchez called for people to organize and mobilize for Providence residents, saying there were eight city council seats and the mayor’s office up for election in 2022. Activists promised to primary elected leaders who did not do enough to combat systemic racism or help distressed communities.

Providence Police held a minor presence throughout the rally, and were a frequent target of activists’ criticisms surrounding the killing of Daunte Wright. Sanchez cited Tuesday’s public safety report. The report, compiled by Public Financial Management, was the result of a seven-month audit dedicated to analyzing the city’s spending in its public safety operations. Sanchez emphasized the service call statistics in the report. While less than 4% of all calls for service were for violent crime, 4.6% of calls were for loud music. “We don’t need to send people with guns to civilian homes for loud music,” said Sanchez.

Activists allege that the kind of police violence that happened to Daunte Wright happens in Rhode Island now. They argue that Jhamal Gonsalves crashed because of police actions, that Providence Police shot out a protester’s eye last summer, that law enforcement endangered civilians during peaceful protests by attempting to drive into protesters, and then there’s Joshua Robinson. 

Robinson was stopped at a traffic stop in March 2013 and was subsequently beaten by officers after they suspected him of swallowing drugs (no drugs were found on Robinson and a medical exam showed none in his system). He later sued the city of Providence, with the city settling for $72,500 in 2019.

Rep. David Morales (District 7, Providence) asked rhetorically what the cops at the end of the mall were scared of. “They have all the power, but they act like the victims,” he said. Morales went on to call for the repeal of the law enforcement bill of rights, and for reallocating police funds, alleging that law enforcement sees increased budgets, while state Medicaid faces cuts multiple years in a row, education remains underfunded and Providence still has lead in water pipes.

The crowd was composed of young people carrying signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “Fuck the Police,” “Blue Lies Matter” and other similar sentiments. Protesters were entirely peaceful and the rally ended just before dark without incident.

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