Five arrested at protest outside Providence Public Safety Complex


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — According to police, five people were arrested during a protest outside the Providence Public Safety Complex on Saturday night.

The protest started around 8:30 p.m with demonstrators marching up the street, chanting, and setting off flares. It was meant to condemn the arrest of two people at a Black Lives Matter counter-protest on Thursday.

According to Providence Police Col. Hugh Clements, there were about 150 people that attended the protest Saturday night and it got “contentious in the very beginning.” He said four people were arrested earlier in the evening and one person was arrested later on for pointing a laser at an officer.

“They were throwing paint at the police officers, they were throwing objects, smoke grenades, there was some damage. No police officers got hurt…. We made an arrest for someone pointing a laser at the police.”

According to police, the names of the people arrested and charges they are facing as follows:

  • Joan Steffen, 27 , of Quincy Mass. She is charged with three counts of assaulting a police officer (a felony) and resisting arrest
  • Gregory Wakmulski, 38, of Pawtucket. He is charged with obstructing police in execution of duty
  • Lauren Matthais, 30, of South Kingstown. She is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest
  • Ella Fassier, 27, of Pawtuket. She is charged with unlawful use of a laser and obstruction
  • Michael Simpson, 24, of Providence. He is charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing police.

On Sunday morning Clements clarified that only five people were arrested in total, not six as he originally stated late Saturday night. Of those, four people are facing misdemeanor charges and one is facing felony charges. All have since been release from custody pending a future court date.

Clements added that an unmarked cruiser was damaged when the windows were broken. Officers were inside of the vehicle at the time of the incident. They were not injured.

Police in riot gear remained in position and protesters eventually began to leave shortly after 11 p.m.

“We promote safe, peaceful protests. We will not tolerate violence,” he added.

One of those people arrested at the protest on Thursday, Najeli Rodriguez, attended a separate protest at the State House earlier Saturday afternoon and recalled the moment when she claimed she was taken to the ground by police officers.

“I didn’t even realize it was happening until I went down. I just felt a yank on my arm and I looked and I just saw an officer lunged towards me. He literally lunged forward and they made space because there was a wall of officers and they made space for him to pull me through and then they closed the wall,” Rodriguez said.

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