On August 14, several protestors with the Jewish activist group Never Again Action (“NAA”) were outside the Wyatt Detention Facility (“WDF”) in Central Falls, Rhode Island. The private prison facility has contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), and the protestors were trying to prevent staff from parking.
At one point, a black pickup truck swerved toward the protestors, and the protestors began shouting. While surrounded by people, the driver, a prison guard, stepped on the gas and hit some of them while others ran out of the way. Children and at least one person in a wheelchair were among those protesting. One bystander had the presence of mind to capture the incident on video, which soon went viral.
The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office issued a statement confirming it is investigating the matter, but will not proceed until there is “a full understanding of the relevant facts.” The RI AG’s office notes that peaceful protest is a fundamental right of all Americans.
Protestors Pepper Sprayed
Those hit by the vehicle were taken to the hospital, although no serious injuries were reported with the exception of an elderly protestor whose leg was broken. Some of those pepper-sprayed were also taken to the hospital because of the exposure.
The driver, later identified as corrections officer Captain Thomas Wentworth, walked into the facility after fellow guards pepper sprayed protestors. Although representatives from the Central Falls Police Department were on hand, they reportedly did nothing to stop the incident and did not arrest the driver. The police would not take statements from protestors.
Wentworth was later put on administrative leave pending an investigation. Afterward, the Central Falls Police Department issued a statement saying they were working with the RI AG’s office and the RI State Police on the investigation.
Facility Board Appointed by Mayor
Central Falls is approximately 7 miles from Providence. The WDF, described as a “non-profit, quasi-public detention facility,” is under contract with ICE to house immigrant detainees. While formally operated by the Central Falls Detention Facility Corp., the WDF is run by a board appointed by the town’s mayor.
Preventing Another Holocaust
The goal behind NAA is simple – preventing another Holocaust. They know the road to the death camps began with smaller atrocities. There have been many anti-ICE protests by Jewish groups in recent days, including one in New York City that shut down part of the West Side Highway and led to roughly 100 arrests over the previous weekend. As an NAA spokesman says, “People are being harmed in ICE custody every day. This is exactly why we are doing what we’re doing.”
As one member of NAA tweeted, “We’re putting our bodies on the line because we see the camps and the roundups. We’ve learned from our ancestors: NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE.” Another NAA member says, “We've seen past tests that bystanders have failed. We're not going to repeat those mistakes. It's not just this one guy. It is a system.”
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