PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It was a relatively quiet night in Rhode Island as the National Guard and police officers from across the state stood guard, preparing to quell any violence and destruction.
Cities and towns across the state were left on edge after hundreds of people gathered outside Providence Place Mall early Tuesday morning to demand justice for George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died after an officer kneeled on his neck while he was handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe. The incident was caught on video and has since sparked violent protests across the country.
The gathering in Providence appeared to be peaceful at first, but quickly devolved when people began storming the mall, looting nearby businesses and torching a police cruiser.
By daybreak, nine officers had been injured and 65 people were arrested on a variety of charges, including breaking and entering, receiving stolen goods and resisting arrest. Rhode Island State Police Col. James Manni called it a coordinated attack on the city.
Just as state leaders began to process what had unfolded the night before, police received word of social media posts promoting “planned violence” at both Warwick Mall and Garden City Center.
The online threats prompted a massive police response. Raimondo activated the Rhode Island National Guard, which was deployed to block off the entrances of both shopping centers. Helicopters could also be heard throughout the night flying overhead in Providence, Warwick and Cranston.
Cities and towns across the state issued curfews in an effort to prevent additional violence. Several curfews were lifted Wednesday morning, however, Providence will remain under a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew through June 9 as a precaution.
Woonsocket opted not to issue a citywide curfew Tuesday evening, but come Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt decided to implement one from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. until further notice.
Providence Police tell Eyewitness News there were only a few incidents overnight that were quickly addressed before they got out of hand.
In Warwick, Mayor Joseph Solomon said there were no major incidents overnight in his city, while Cranston Mayor Allan Fung said a small group of people did show up to Garden City but ended up dispersing with no arrests.
Both Solomon and Fung said they do not plan to continue their citywide curfews Wednesday night, but they are monitoring the situation closely and will take the necessary steps to protect their communities.
“If, in fact, information evolves that warrants the protection of property or life then so be it,” Solomon said. “We will implement anything and everything necessary, including a curfew. Rest assured that better times are coming.”
“Whether it’s myself or other mayors, we will pay the dollars to protect our residents and our businesses,” Fung added.