A group of protesters in Rhode Island converged on the Wyatt ICE Detention Center on Wednesday night. They said their goal was to shut the facility down for the second time in a month. However, their peaceful demonstration erupted into chaos when a truck attempted to drive into the group, and law enforcement started using pepper spray.
The demonstration was organized by two activist groups, Never Again Action and AMOR Network. Never Again Action is a Jewish activist group against ICE which formed 6 weeks ago. They claim to have shut down dozens of ICE detention centers and field offices across the country.
The group says they are not only made up of #JewsAgainstICE protesters, using the hashtag that has accompanied several Jewish-led protests against ICE recently; Wednesday night’s protest in Rhode Island also involved immigrants and allies, Never Again Action said.
The group live-tweeted the march to the detention center, and the dangerous incident that ensued.
The Wyatt Detention Center, a private prison in Rhode Island, is being used to hold migrants arrested by ICE at the border, according to the ACLU. Never Again Action says they first protested there last month.
“Now we’re back, with twice as many people, blanketing the entire street, and we’ll keep coming back until it’s closed forever,” the group tweeted on Wednesday.
Another tweet said the group had delivered a letter to the center’s leadership “demanding transparency about the condition of those inside,” and giving an ultimatum: “If they do not come out to meet with us by 8pm, then we will have no choice but to shut down their facility.”
When that deadline passed, the protesters declared the facility “officially closed for business.” They moved to the staff parking lot, where they planned on meeting night guards as they arrived for their shifts. “We will not allow business as usual to continue: no more roundups, no more cages, simple as that,” they wrote.
“RI State Police have just arrived to try to clear our protest, to allow the ICE Detention Center to continue business as usual,” the next update read. “30+ of us are risking arrest, 200 more are supporting as we prevent guards from arriving for the night shift.”
The next tweet was a harrowing one. It included a video of a pickup truck trying to drive through a line of protestors who were sitting on the pavement.
“Oh my god. 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,” Never Again Action tweeted with the jarring video of the truck getting dangerously close to the protestors.
The group claims the driver was an ICE guard. CBS News has reached out to Wyatt Detention Center to confirm this, and has requested a statement on Wednesday night’s incident.
The group said some people were “run over,” and they also alleged Wyatt Detention Center guards pepper-sprayed them while Rhode Island State Police “just stood by and did nothing.”
Later they said five people from the group had been hospitalized — three for severe pepper spray exposure, and two with injuries from the truck. “Thankful the injuries were not life-threatening,” they wrote.
The Rhode Island attorney general’s office said it is working with state police to investigate the incident. “Once we have a full understanding of the relevant facts, we will determine how to proceed,” the office said in a statement. “Peaceful protest is a fundamental right of all Americans; it is unfortunate last night’s situation unfolded as it did. We urge all to exercise restraint as our investigation proceeds.”
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