Black Lives Matter RI PAC calling to defund the police after Sayles Street incident


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A small crowd gathered outside the Providence Public Safety Complex on Saturday afternoon, once again, calling on the city to end funding for the Providence Police Department.

“Those solutions look like healthcare, those solutions look like shelter, those solutions look like an educational system that doesn’t create a school to prison pipeline,” Harrison Tuttle told the crowd.

The rally was organized by Black Lives Matter RI PAC following Tuesday’s incident on Sayles Street. Providence police are reviewing the police response to what they described as a neighborhood dispute between a crowd of people. Residents said pepper spray was used on the crowd, which they claim included children as young as a year old, while some people were forcibly arrested and shoved in the back of police cruisers.

On Thursday, the police department released body camera footage of Tuesday’s incident on Sayles Street. Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare told 12 News, the pepper spray “was used according to policy” since the crowd had become hostile.

He also noted that the neighborhood in question has been a problem for police in the past, with officers having been called there more than three dozen times in the last year and a half, including three times on the night in question.

Paré said they won’t comment on whether they believe appropriate force was used until the investigation is complete, but added that there was no excuse for the language heard in the footage.

On Saturday, Harrison Tuttle from the Black Lives Rhode Island Political Action Committee said the incident is an example of why funds need to be directed somewhere else.

“Defunding the police means reallocate resources in areas that have been deprived for over a hundred years in our community. It does not mean anarchy, it does not mean unlawful society.”

State Senator Sam Bell, who represents the district, was also at the rally and said he viewed the body cam footage.

“It’s just yet a piece of proof that this problem goes on right here in our city, in our state, but we are doing nothing and it’s shameful,” Bell said. “I really feel like I have an obligation to speak up for my constituents. You know, it’s something that really hurts people in Providence.”

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