PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza signed an executive order Tuesday putting a citywide curfew into effect in response to the violence and destruction that transpired the previous night.
Under the order, no one is allowed to be out walking between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. from June 2-9. Elorza said the curfew will be reassessed at that time, noting city council approval would be needed to extend it.
The order does not apply to first responders, people seeking medical care, those performing or traveling directly to and from essential work, individuals experiencing homelessness, and members of the news media.
Hundreds of people gathered downtown late Monday night and chaos soon ensued. Police tried to maintain order but said bricks and other items were thrown at them before rioters stormed inside the mall and began damaging and looting stores on the first floor.
Police were eventually able to drive the rioters out of the mall but once the crowd dispersed, the looting and vandalism continued elsewhere. One police cruiser was set ablaze and several others were damaged.
Providence police said nine officers were injured during the melee and 65 people were taken into custody.
“Last night was a tough night for our city,” Elorza said Tuesday morning. “I know there is a lot of anger in our community, in our state, and throughout the entire country but one thing that is clear is that violence is not the answer. Violence is never the answer.”
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Those who gathered in Providence around midnight were not coming together to peacefully protest; they were out to cause trouble, according to the mayor.
There was a peaceful protest held in the city this past weekend where thousands of people came together to march peacefully through the streets of Providence, though explicit graffiti appeared on the State House steps and entrance hours after the crowd dispersed.
Elorza said the peaceful protest showed how great the Providence community is.
“What we saw last night was very different,” he said. “I feel for all of the people that were affected, I feel for all the small businesses that have already taken it so hard throughout the pandemic and throughout the crisis and this is just added pain on top of that.”
“This kills morale, especially coming off the heels of such a really uplifting protest the previous night where the community came together in such a peaceful way,” he continued. “I also feel for our community because these acts of violence, they are distractions from what the real issue is and are real distractions for what people are coming together for in this moment.”
Elorza said he understands people are angry, and they are justified to be.
“We have to hear ways to be allies to our African American brothers and sisters and our neighbors, but what we saw last night, that is not it,” he added.
The mayor said the way move forward from this is to come together and be productive and have something positive come out of this terrible experience with George Floyd losing his life at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
A number of people came out as early as 5 a.m. to volunteer and help local shops clean up the debris and broken glass.
“I know what has ignited this last round of protests around the country has been the conduct of people in police departments. Well I also want to say that as I have spoken with so many people downtown and in the neighborhood area this morning, every single person has told us what a great job they believe the police did last night,” Elorza said. “I want to say thank you to the men and women in uniform who conducted themselves so professionally.”
Several other surrounding cities and towns have issued similar curfews, including Cranston, Warwick and Pawtucket.