CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — Eighteen people have been released from police custody after they were arrested during a protest Tuesday night outside Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls.
Nearly 250 people took part in the demonstration, which organizers said was to protest the “mass detention and human rights abuses of migrants and refugees throughout the US,” as well as Wyatt’s agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain immigrants as they await trial.
Wyatt currently houses more than 100 federal immigration detainees.
The protest was happening at the same time as dozens of others just like it across the country.
One of the people arrested, Katie Bogen, said they showed up intent on disrupting operations at the facility.
“I think we are at a historical moment right now where it is a moral imperative for us to be disruptive,” Bogen said Wednesday. “We were actually able to interrupt their work day.”
According to the police report obtained by Eyewitness News, the group began gathering outside the facility around 6:15 p.m. and about an hour later, members started blocking its main and side entrances by linking arms and forming a human chain.
Wyatt officials told police they needed to use the side entrance to move a transport van to make room for another carrying prisoners from a Connecticut facility but they were unable to because of the protesters.
Organizers told police the demonstrators weren’t going to move, noting they all knew the consequences of their actions and were willing to face charges, according to the report.
Police said the crowd ignored several orders to clear the way and gradually got louder and started screaming obscenities towards the officers.
The transport van arrived around 8:50 p.m., according to police, and when the protesters ignored a final warning, the officers started making arrests.
Bogen said the group planned to leave when Wyatt closed at 9 p.m.
Eleven women and seven men were charged with a single count of disorderly conduct:
- Amy Anthony, 35, of Providence
- Ellen Bar-Zemer, 73, of Providence
- Uri Bar-Zemer, 76, of Providence
- Roxanne Barnes, 20, of Providence
- Sara Bilman, 35, of Providence
- Katherine Bogen, 25, of Providence
- Liza Burkin, 30, of Providence
- Eric Cherry, 48, of Mansfield, Mass.
- Maya Dayan, 21, of Providence
- Diana Fox, 54, of Providence
- Jared A. Goldstein, 51, of Providence
- Wendy Grossman, 57, of Providence
- Claude Lebouef, 66, of Providence
- Amy Pickworth, 50, of Providence
- Jonathan A. Regunberg, 29, of Providence
- Gemma Sack, 20, of Providence
- Jack L. Silverman, 18, of East Greenwich
- Bradley J. Vanderstad, 24, of Providence
All 18 people were issued a summons to appear in court on July 11.
Among those arrested was former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, who now works as a senior advisor for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. When asked about the arrest, a spokesperson for Elorza said: “the mayor is proud to have Aaron on the team.”
Bogen said these types of protests are crucial, calling them a rebuke of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. She also said she takes issue with the state of detention centers along the US-Mexico border, going so far as to compare them to concentration camps.
“There are no blankets, there are no beds, there is not enough food, the children are sick, people don’t have access to their family members,” she explained. “That is reminiscent, to me, of the stories I heard from my grandfather.”
After being arrested, fingerprinted and booked, Bogen said she has no regrets.
“Absolutely, it was worth it,” she said. “I would do it again, and it is possible I will do it again.”
Bogen said the group is planning more protests in the near future.
In a statement on Wednesday, Central Falls police said they “respect the right for people to protest in a peaceful and safe manner without breaking any laws.”
Central Falls Mayor James Diossa said he too supports peaceful protests and understands the passion behind Tuesday night’s demonstration, but also emphasized that protesters were given several chances to move before the handcuffs were brought out.
“Under the circumstances and with concerns of safety overall, we had to take that step,” Diossa said.
Diossa is one of many city leaders currently being sued by Wyatt’s bondholders over attempts to break the agreement with ICE.