CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office confirms it has opened an investigation after what was supposed to be a peaceful protest at Wyatt Detention Center turned into chaos Wednesday night.
Hundreds of people lined the streets of the detention center to protest the prison’s partnership with immigration officials.
The prison has been under scrutiny for months after entering an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees while they await trial. At last check, approximately 139 federal immigration detainees are currently being housed at Wyatt.
Eyewitness News spoke to several protesters on scene, who said they were prepared to be arrested.
Protesters were holding hands to form a chain when a truck drove into the group abruptly, which sent protesters running. Then, what appears to be pepper spray was misted into the air, which covered both law enforcement and protesters.
Protesters from The Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance” and the Fang Collective claim it was correctional officers who sprayed them after being asked to move away from the truck.
Arthur Gleiner said he was blinded for a time.
“Some of us were just standing to the side supporting what was going on trying to keep the truck from leaving the scene after they had really assaulted, with their vehicle, these people,” Gleiner said. “Several officers showed up and told everybody to back up and before anyone had a chance to move they sprayed pepper spray indiscriminately at a whole crowd of people.”
The Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office, along with Rhode Island State Police, is investigating the incident and released the following statement:
This office, working with the Rhode Island State Police, is investigating what transpired last night at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls. Once we have a full understanding of the relevant facts, we will determine how to proceed. 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.”
Eyewitness News has reached out to Wyatt Detention Center, as well as the Central Falls Police Department and Central Falls Mayor’s Office for comment, but have yet to hear back.
Eyewitness News will continue to update this developing story throughout the day on WPRI.com and Eyewitness News at Noon on WPRI 12.