“Rhode Island must drastically change its priorities. We can start by cutting back on the authoritarian police force that so often terrorizes poor, black, and immigrant communities.“
On Indigenous People’s Day (Monday, October 12, 2020) Rhode Island State Police surrounded a group of about a dozen protestors, including members of Providence Democratic Socialists of America. Police arrested seven (including a minor) and published their mugshots and addresses on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Arresting protestors is an attack on civil liberty, and the toxic practice of releasing compromising personal information is known as doxxing, and is often intended to invite retribution.
Members of Providence DSA, along with countless other Rhode Island residents, responded immediately, making calls to Attorney General Peter Neronha and the Rhode Island State Police to demand that the protestors be released and that the compromising personal information be taken down. Callers were treated dismissively, hung up, and even lied to. One staffer at the State Police claimed that “we publish all mugshots and addresses to our social media accounts” — which is simply not true. Others simply told callers not to call.
This is all part of a pattern of police’s ironic disregard for public safety in Providence and throughout the country. Aggression, intimidation, and over-policing have defined the state’s response to protestors. Since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, members of Providence DSA have joined hundreds of thousands of protestors in outrage to demand real, lasting change.
Police response has been instigation, arrests, and contempt. Rhode Island must drastically change its priorities. We can start by cutting back on the authoritarian police force that so often terrorizes poor, black, and immigrant communities. Providence DSA renews its demands to:
- Cut police funding in state and city budgets. The Rhode Island state budget allocates $35 million for a new police barracks at a time when the government is attempting to cut essential health and welfare services to fix the deficit. This is unacceptable.
- Stop taking money from police unions. Elected leaders in Rhode Island should follow the example of the New York lawmakers who have pledged to give away all the money they’ve received from the police, and refuse to take any money in the future.
- Expel police unions from the AFL-CIO. It’s a stain on the honor of organized labor that police unions, which consistently protect abusive cops, are still permitted inside the AFL-CIO. We agree with UAW Local 2865 in California, who recently demanded that these unions be expelled from the labor movement. Unions should follow the example of the bus drivers in Minneapolis who refused to help police transport arrested protesters.
- Remove cops from our schools. Minneapolis Public Schools are considering canceling all contracts with police departments. The ACLU of Rhode Island has two active lawsuits related to assaults by “school resource officers.” We support the resolution put forward by Providence City Council members Rachel Miller and Nirva LaFortune to remove these police from schools.
The crime which protestors were arrested for was blocking I-95 by Providence Place Mall for seven minutes to call attention to the genocide of indigenous people which began after the arrival Christopher Columbus; thus the connection to Columbus Day / Indigenous People’s Day.