Just over 150 people marched from Burnside Park in Providence onto the the Route 95 on ramp on Memorial Boulevard by the Providence Place Mall about 9pm on Wednesday night. The march was in response to the failure of a Louisville Kentucky grand jury to bring any charges against the police officers who entered the home of Breonna Taylor and shot her dead. Similar solidarity marches happened across the country. In Louisville, over 100 protesters were arrested and two police officers were shot.
The Rhode Island State Police and the Providence Police were seemingly caught off guard by the protesters as the marched on the highway on ramp. But within minutes the protest was met by a large numbers of officers who ordered the protesters off the highway, spraying people with pepper spray and forcing everyone to climb over a chain link fence that brought the protest onto Hayes Street, on the opposite end on the Mall.
Two reporters from UpriseRI, Steve Ahlquist and Will James accompanied the protesters onto the highway, as did a Providence Journal reporter and at least on other. Television reporters told UpriseRI that they were in danger of losing their jobs if they had followed the protesters into the highway.
In the live stream by Will James below, the protest enters the highway at about the eight minute mark and are confronted by the police at about the 16 minute mark.
Here’s video from the camera of Steve Ahlquist, who stopped filming to help a person who had been sprayed by tear gas get over the fence, and was then helped over the fence himself.
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The first police officer to engage with the protesters told them to leave the highway, telling them, “You can protest, but you can’t protest out here. Protest in the city. You protest out here you got a bigger problem. You’ll get hit by a car and killed.”
Protesters responded by chanting the name of Breanna Taylor. As the protesters moved to block more than one lane of traffic, a second police officer exited his vehicle and began pepper spraying. The protesters retreated and as more police officers arrived, the scene erupted into chaos as people blinded by pepper spray were forced over the chain link fence by police or helped over the fence by other protesters.
Pepper spray was used several more times by the same police officer, who told protesters, “Get off the fucking highway.”
Will James repeatedly identified himself as a member of the press but was ignored.
There were no arrests and the protest continued on peacefully, temporarily blocking the Memorial Street on ramp before ending the march at Memorial Park at the foot of College Hill.