Providence community leader recounts attempting to deescalate violence


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Bennie Stevens, a Providence community leader, decided to take a 2 a.m. bike ride Tuesday and was floored by what he saw.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Providence, looting and damaging businesses across the city. The violence stems from the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who was pinned down by an officer who kneeled on his neck, despite the fact he was pleading that he couldn’t breathe.

Stevens recounted the overnight violence during Mayor Jorge Elorza’s briefing Tuesday afternoon. He said he ran into a friend who first told him of the ongoing destruction.

That’s when Stevens decided he needed to stand guard overnight alongside his friend to discourage as many people as he could from stealing and destroying property.

He said 15-20 cars passed by, mostly full of people they knew.

“We didn’t tell them to not just keep it moving, we actually told them to go home. It’s four-in-the-morning go home, it’s over,” he recalled.

Stevens said many of the businesses the looters were targeting were local places residents need to go.

“If I wake up in the morning and want to go to Family Dollar, what if it ain’t there?” he questioned. “Now where do I go?”

He also acknowledged the peaceful protests that happened this past weekend and reiterated that violence is never the answer.

“Marching is fine, acting a fool is not,” he said, adding that Providence residents should cherish the city they live in.

Elorza said he hopes Stevens’ story will inspire others to be part of the solution.

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