The roughly 200 people participating in the Justice for Adam Toledo march in Providence last night were called to a stop by organizer Enrique Sanchez on Weybosset Street near the Providence Performing Arts Center.
“I’m doing this for the safety of all y’all,” said Sanchez, a social justice activist and substitute Providence teacher on a megaphone. “Right in front of us are two alt-right Proud Boys, a racist, nationalist group.”
As UpriseRI and other reporters followed Sanchez, he pointed out two men in black hoodies, standing slightly apart from the crowd. The crowd began to boo, loudly.
“The reason why I’m doing this is because these people record and ID folks so thy can publicize on social media and try to hurt people down the road,” explained Sanchez.
It was a singular moment in Providence activism. In the past, outside infiltrators into marches and rallies, whether they were suspected of being members of far right groups, undercover police officers or right-wing media were quietly confronted and asked to leave, or shunned as their identity was shared with trusted members of the protest.
“I’m pretty sure on of them is Zachary, and the other one, I don’t know his name,” said Sanchez.
“Expose them!” shouted a woman from the crowd.
“They’ve been with us, I think, from the beginning of the march,” said Sanchez. “I just wanted folks to know. It’s very important. I just want all y’all to be safe.”
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Addressing the two men, Sanchez said, “If you just want to walk away or, you know – Just walk away please.”
“Go home!” Shouted a woman, before being joined by a chorus of people telling the men to leave with chants of “Racists go home!”
The two men left, pausing only to flip off the march, trailed by protesters. They got into a nearby car, and sped off. The car was possibly spotted a few times later in the evening as the march continued, usually behind police vehicles.
The Justice for Adam Toledo protest and march started at the Rhode Island State House and was entirely peaceful. The Providence, State and Capitol Police allowed plenty of distance between themselves and the protesters, but were still present, most visibly as the march was returning to the State House and approaching the Route 95 on-ramp by the Providence Place Mall. There, Providence and State Police Officers stood across the on-ramp, blocking traffic and preventing the possibility of the protesters walking onto the highway.
Walking on the highway was never the plan of course, as the protest veered right and headed back to the State House.
As always, Will James had the livestream:
“That could have been my brother,” said Harrison Tuttle, executive director of the BLM RI PAC at the beginning of the protest. “And I know that Adam is just one of many who are affected by police brutality in this country… It’s a reminder that change needs to happen, in a radical way, in which we think of ways to reallocate funds from the police to areas that help people, not kill people.”
“I didn’t want to watch that video,” said Enrique Sanchez. “I kind of knew what I was expecting… so we are here. What is the right thing to do?
“Rest in peace, Adam Toledo. The young man, 13-years-old, was Mexican-American,” continued Sanchez. “I’m Mexican-American. This continues the same pattern where Black and brown people continue to be pushed around – to be killed, continue to be executed by the police state across this country…
“There is an undeclared war on our people since the birth of this country,” said Andira Alves, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). “And this isn’t just about police brutality… We need to put the entire system on trial.”
“The list of children who have been failed by the adults they are supposed to look up to and look to for safety is disgustingly long,” said high school student Jaliyah Joseph, after listing over a dozen Black and brown children killed by police officers over the last decade. “Our children are traumatized by adults who are meant to be role models. By adults who care only for themselves and their own needs. When will the youth be prioritized?”
“Adam Toledo was 13-years-old. 13. A seventh grader. Adam will never get to complete eighth grade. He’ll never get to experience high school, his first date. He won’t know the sluggish feeling from staying up all night to study because he procrastinated to the very last second. He won’t know the horrors of algebra or geometry. He won’t learn how the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell,” said 15-year-old high school student Zainabou Thiam. “He won’t get to be married. He won’t have kids. He won’t be able to buy a house. Adam Toledo is dead. He was murdered.”
Eugenie, from the Providence Student Union, with another amazing piece of poetry.
The Providence Student Union is planning a Counselors NOT Cops Student Walkout! on Thursday and Friday, April 29 and 30.
A woman attending the rally stepped up to speak.
“We need to recognize that even as white people, the police are our enemy too,” said Max an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “Even though we’re less likely to be stopped, less likely to be harassed, it can happen to us just the same, right up to be murdered.”
Back at the State House, some closing words and a moment of silence: