PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Police are investigating after a group of Neo-Nazis interrupted a community reading at a Providence library Monday night.
Officers responding to the Red Ink Community Library on Camp Street around 6:45 p.m. said a group of 15 to 20 people were standing outside and hitting the windows with their hands.
They were also carrying a swastika flag, according to Mayor Jorge Elorza.
“Providence is home to diverse people, cultures and ideas and our city has no room for hate-filled actions meant to intimidate and cause fear,” he wrote on Twitter.
“My administration is committed to making every resident feel safe and protecting the rights of people who are gathering peacefully,” Elorza continued. “Anyone with information regarding the incident involving a swastika flag is encouraged to contact our police department.”
David Raileanu, the library’s director, said they were holding an event to celebrate the 174th anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto, part of an international celebration known as Red Books Day.
“They were shouting some slurs and using some harsh and foul language, mostly with the intention of making us feel unwelcome and that what we were doing was not what they consider to be acceptable in their community,” Raileanu said.
“Make no mistake, it was a terrifying event. It was a brutal to witness and very, very difficult for all the people that were here,” he added.
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When asked if he’s encountered a group like that before, Raileanu said never one of that size.
“The knowledge that such a group exists, that when we think about whether it could or couldn’t happen in Providence, Rhode Island, in a relatively safe blue state we know we’re sort of disabused of the fantasy that we are immune from such threats of violence here,” he added.
Police said the group dispersed once officers arrived and there was no damage to the building.
“There is no place for hate in our communities or state,” Gov. Dan McKee tweeted. “The video showing a group waving Nazi flags last night in PVD is unacceptable and disgusting. I stand with those condemning last night’s acts.”
Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC’s executive director, Harrison Tuttle, told reporters he considers the group to be domestic terrorists.
“They are a threat, not only in Providence, but everywhere across the state in America,” Tuttle said.
“It’s really important that Rhode Island comes together and says no to Nazism and no to right wing ideology that really centers hate and bigotry and white supremacy in our state,” he added.
The Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island condemned the actions of the group, stating “hate has no place in Rhode Island.”
“Incidents like this are happening more frequently in Rhode Island and our region. This is abhorrent,” the statement reads. “Our shared humanity relies on a society that does not hate or discriminate. We must respond collectively with conviction, exposing hatred to the light.”
The library will be hosting a community safety conversation this weekend in response to the incident.