PROVIDENCE – The leader of Black Lives Matter RI PAC accuses police in Providence of assaulting and pepper spraying women and children while responding to a neighborhood brawl in South Providence on Tuesday night.
A video of the meeting posted on YouTube shows eight police officers standing across Sayles Street among a crowd gathered on the sidewalk. Officers moved to make an arrest after a teenager entered the roadway and waved to someone nearby. The officers then invaded the crowd and placed several people under arrest.
Officers can be seen deploying pepper spray as people approach those who are handcuffed and arrested. An officer warns: “Who wants more? ”
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The officers’ actions drew sharp criticism Wednesday night from Harrison Tuttle, executive director of BLM RI PAC, who accused officers of beating and pepper spraying innocent children “brutally”. He called for police funding and for someone to be held accountable.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon at the site of the incident at 260 Sayles Street, the Moore family and neighbors spoke of 18 police cars and a wagon of prisoners arrived in response to a call about a fight between neighbors. By the time the officers arrived, the fight was over.
“We were getting ready to take a walk,” Taffii Moore said.
A teenager entered the street to wave at a neighbor. Police then raided the property as the adults moved around to protect the children, Moore said. Officers used pepper spray on children as young as 1, leaving them to cry as they burned, she said.
“They attacked children. They attacked everyone in this house,” Moore said as dozens of Black Lives Matter supporters and other activist groups watched. “No justice, no peace,” read one sign, an appeal often heard over the past year in protests denouncing police brutality nationwide. “Family members deserve responsibility responsibility responsibility,” said another.
The Providence Police Department did not immediately release a statement, but a spokeswoman said the department expected to release redacted body camera footage.
Theresa Agonia, chief of external affairs for the mayor of Providence, Jorge Elorza, said the police department was working to redact the identities of young people from body camera images.
“This is an ongoing investigation and anyone with a video or account of the incident is encouraged to send it to the Providence Police Department Professional Liability Office by calling ( 401) 272-3121, “Agonia said in an email.
According to Tuttle’s account, the police responded to a fight between adult neighbors and “started massaging and beating the children without warning.”
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Tuttle said two girls and two boys were arrested, three of whom were under 18. Another, Zyrray Moore, 21, cried Thursday as she said she tried to protect her younger brothers.
“They were ready to be aggressive,” Zyrray said of the police.
None of the children or adults were armed as the batons left the teens bruised and shaken, the families said.
“All of them have been beaten and butchered by the police and have visible marks on their bodies,” Tuttle said.
Tuttle and the Moores also complained that the four arrested were held in the back of a burning police van for an hour as they struggled to breathe after being sprayed. A teenage girl suffered from asthma. Police ignored their calls from the air conditioning, Zyrray said.
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According to Tuttle, another 14-year-old boy, whom he described as a cancer patient, was beaten with a baton as he tried to protect another boy. He was taken into custody and detained in a separate police car.
“After an incident like this, if lawmakers don’t support funding for police across Rhode Island, they actively support brutal beatings and near-murder of children,” Tuttle said in a press release. .
“The thoughts and prayers of the entire Black Lives Matter movement are with families during this difficult time, but we’ll stop there. Thoughts and prayers are not a substitute for action and we will continue to fight for change, ”he continued.
Raymond Lee, who shot the video, said he believed the house had been targeted because of its work for social justice causes, including Black Lives Matter. He has called the police for years due to conflicts with neighbors and to prevent others from hanging out and taking drugs nearby, he said.
Lee can be heard in the video calling for calm.
The families are demanding a public apology from the Providence Police Department and that some of the officers involved be fired and held accountable.
“We ask that they be retrained, that they apologize, that they be fired if they are repeat offenders,” said Taffii Moore.