PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Executive Director of Black Lives Matter R.I. insists the arrests, violence and disruption from Tuesday night’s march and protest are signs of years of frustration in the state’s minority communities.
Brother Gary Dantlzer said he left the demonstration around 9:30 p.m., roughly three-and-a-half hours after a rally formed on Elmwood Avenue and marched to the Providence Public Safety Complex to protest the moped crash involving Jhamal Gonsalves, who remains hospitalized in a coma.
Gonsalves was taken to the hospital in critical condition Sunday night following what witnesses claim was a caught on camera collision with a Providence police cruiser driven by officer Kyle Endres, who is on administrative duty while the incident is investigated.
Dantzler said “there’s no doubt in his mind” a collision involving a white rider would have resulted in stronger reaction from the entire state and the police department.
He blamed police, not protesters, for what happened Tuesday night.
“I can’t believe what I heard from police,” Dantzler said. “Things like, ‘We should line them up and shoot them.’ A girl came up to me crying because she got sprayed [with pepper spray]. I’m very disappointed in the Providence Police right now.”
Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Paré said he saw Dantzler at the protest, and said the department’s initial examination of how the protest escalated indicates that the leaders of the groups that were involved did not incite the violence.
“The people who were out there felt the tension and it wasn’t the leaders we’re used to communicating with,” Paré said. “We have a mutual respect for what they’re trying to do and what we’re trying to do.”
Mixed in with the march was what are known as ride outs, or large gatherings of ATV’s and other motorized vehicles sometimes racing through the city. On Tuesday, several participants were seen creating clouds of smoke as they burned rubber and did doughnuts on various streets.
The incident involving Gonsalves had also started with a ride out.
Dantzler said while he understands why residents consider the loud parade of vehicles disruptive, he said the riders do it due to a lack of other “educational and recreational opportunities.”
“I completely support them. The city needs to take some of the police budget,” he said. “Use it to reopen rec. centers, playgrounds. Create an ATV park for these Black and Hispanic residents. They’re taxpayers too. Their parents are taxpayers.”
Mayor Jorge Elorza said he plans on meeting with ride out organizers to discover ways to get their events under control.
“We know that his ATV situation, the dirt bike situation has just continued to grow, and it’s gotten to a point that we can’t allow this to happen,” Elorza said. “So, we need to find some creative solution and sit down with them to see what we can find.”
While the investigation into the incident involving Gonsalves is ongoing, Dantzler does not shy away from insisting that the video shows Endres, “used his police car as a weapon” and should be terminated.
“He could’ve stopped that kid, given him a citation. Took his motor vehicle from him,” Dantzler said. “There are ways that you deescalate the situation and he has that training. And now that kid is fighting for his life.”
Paré did not offer a time frame for how long the investigation will take, but he said he understands the emotions tied to what happened and the desire to bring the case to its next step.