A US correctional officer drove into a row of Jewish protesters demonstrating at the street entrance to an ICE detention center in Rhode Island on Wednesday night, injuring several people, activists said.
Protesters were then pepper-sprayed, according to people present at the protest.
Hundreds of Jewish protesters had gathered at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and dozens blocked the entrance to the center’s parking lot. The protest was the latest demonstration by Never Again Action, a new Jewish group protesting ICE and United States immigration policy by getting arrested at ICE detention facilities.
At around 9:45 p.m., according to video, an eyewitness and social media posts from the protest, a black pickup truck driving 10 to 15 miles per hour drove into a group of about 30 people who were sitting in a row and blocking the street that fed into the detention center’s parking lot.
“The crowd screamed as the driver used the truck to strike several people, knocking some over. Several protesters jumped in front of the truck to try to stop it,” Never Again Action said in a statement. “As protesters surrounded the truck, about a dozen correctional officers from Wyatt descended on the crowd. When protesters refused to move, officers pepper sprayed dozens of people and physically pushed them.”
According to the group, “the driver was wearing a correctional officer uniform identifying him as a captain, along with a badge.”
Video of the incident shows people screaming and running as the car moves slowly into the crowd. The crowd then broke out into a chant of “The whole world is watching.” Protesters surrounded the truck.
RI State Police have just arrived to try to clear our protest, to allow the ICE Detention Center to continue business as usual. 30+ of us are risking arrest, 200 more are supporting as we prevent guards from arriving for the night shift.
— ✡️ Never Again Action ✡️ (@NeverAgainActn) August 15, 2019
In its statement, Never Again Action said several people were treated for injuries from the truck-ramming and at least one person was taken to a local hospital for additional treatment. It said “dozens” also received medical aid after being doused with pepper spray.
“The truck came barreling towards us, and was clearly trying to run us over,” said protester Jared Goldstein, according to the group. “This was a group of peaceful protesters who were pepper sprayed and almost run over by correctional officers from the same facility we were here to protest.”
“The truck came in and people ran,” Lex Rofeberg, a protester who was not in the car’s path, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I don’t think someone got directly hit by the car.”
Never Again Action tweeted that the car belonged to a guard at the detention center.
“Oh my god,” the group tweeted. “An ICE Detention Center guard just drove their truck straight through a line of us sitting peacefully to block the parking lot. There don’t appear to be major injuries, still assessing the situation, police are moving in *on us* now.”
“All of us who were in the vicinity caught some of the tear gas,” Rofeberg said.
“It was shocking, it was unexpected,” he added. “There’s some amount of risk when you go to an action like this. You don’t expect it to unfold like this.”