“We want want the Governor to ‘Knock It Off.’ We don’t need COVID Cops.“
About thirty people marched from the Rhode Island State House to the home of Governor Gina Raimondo to protest her response to preventing large gatherings where COVID-19 can be spread by instituting a new Rhode Island State Police “Large Gathering Task Force Hotline” people can use to report their neighbors who are having gatherings or more than 15 people.
“The main objective of this protest is to get across the message that the Governor’s Crush COVID cop campaign is just very tone deaf,” said Amanda “Brooklyn” Toussaint, of Prov X. “It’s stupid. Clearly we’re asking to defund the police and she’s funding them, which makes no sense, and not only is she funding them she’s asking community members to call the police on other community members. We all know the types of people who are going to call the police on gatherings of more than 15.”
Reporters spoke to Toussaint:
The protest was organized by Prov X, Providence Democratic Socialists of America, Reclaim RI and Tenant Network RI. and lasted about two hours. Though it appeared the Governor was not home, protesters felt that she got the message.
At first, the police were very confrontational, lining up across the Governor’s lawn and directly facing the protesters, but after a few minutes they withdrew. The protesters were very clear that they were exercising their first amendment rights to protest, were clear in their political objectives, left room on the sidewalk for people to pass, and did not step on private property.
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UpriseRI spoke to one of the protesters, who works as a contact tracer for the Rhode Island Department of Health, and wanted to stay anonymous. They first described their job:
“When someone tests positive, we call them up, talk to them about their symptoms, and crucially identify any needs that they have that would keep them from staying safe at home and find out about anyone they may have come in contact with during the time they were infectious.“
How does this order hurt public health objectives?
“The newest order of the Governor goes against public health fundamentally because who is going to tell me over the phone that they went to a party with over 20 people if they know that they’re going to get fined $500 and get cops into their house?
“We’d be foolish to think that the history of white folks calling the cops on Black and brown poor communities isn’t just going to continue. So there are a lot of layers to that executive order that truly don’t help the public.“
For one recent example, see here:
How do we keep people safe from contracting COVID then?
“If you want to keep people safe inside, you extend unemployment benefits. You stop evictions. You keep utilities on and you provide opportunities for people to get a job – funding the community, for those young people.
“But they don’t listen to us young people. And though I think people should stay home because of COVID, why should young people listen to the government when the government doesn’t serve them?
“A cop going to a party is not going to stop the transmission of COVID. If COVID was transmitted, it’s transmitted. What it’s going to do is intimidate people, scare people, put them in debt, potentially put them in jail, and create situations that can easily lead to violence and death.
“What you clearly need during a pandemic is health care, mental health services, housing, education, food – It’s just so tone deaf to hear someone chide and scold young people for partying when they want to send kids back to school en masse, and teachers complain that they don’t have enough PPE, their classrooms are too small, their schools are falling apart, and at the same time, you’re going to keep bars and restaurants open.“
During the march and through Providence and outside the Governor’s home protesters handed out flyers with their demands that the Providence City Council defund the police by 70% and more:
Protesters also read these demands out loud:
Some final words from Amanda Toussaint: