CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — Charges against 16 of the 18 protesters arrested during a large demonstration outside Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls last week have been dismissed.
The protest was in opposition to the mass detention of migrants and refugees nationwide. Locally, the protesters expressed disdain for Wyatt, which currently houses 139 federal immigration detainees as part of an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The 18 protesters were arrested after they walked off the streets and sidewalks and onto Wyatt’s private property. Among those arrested was former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg.
“We can’t afford to sit idly by while these acts of violence are happening,” Regunberg said outside of court.
Sixteen of those protesters appeared in Providence District Court Thursday on charges of disorderly conduct. Each one went before a judge to have their cases dismissed as part of an agreement with the city.
“The deal on the table was either community service or supporting a Central Falls nonprofit in order to have the charges dismissed,” said Barry Dolinger, an attorney for four of the defendants.
Fourteen of the protesters chose to donate $100 apiece to nonprofits that support the migrant community, including Fuerza Laboral and Progressive Latino. The other two opted for community service.
Outside of court, protester Liza Burkin said this is just the beginning.
“The leniency with which we were treated seems like a green light to keep going,” Burkin said. “Many, many, many people are putting their bodies on the line, using their privilege, using the color of their skin to stand up for others who are being mistreated.”
The last two protesters will be arraigned next week because they had scheduling conflicts. Attorneys expect they will take the same deal as the others.