A Providence police SUV rammed a young man, Jhamal Gonsalves, off his scooter on Sunday, 18 October 2020. The incident happened on Elmwood Avenue near Bissell Street. Jhamal suffered severe head injuries and ended up in a coma in Rhode Island Hospital. Some news sources reported that Jhamal was part of a large group of mopeds, scooters, and other such vehicles roaming through the city streets, but no others are visible in the video where the police rammed him. Neither are any pedestrians visible in the immediate vicinity during the incident. Cops surrounded him but did not appear to render any kind of first aid. Providence Police and the mayor of Providence, Jorge Elorza, have said that the incident will be investigated but so far have not admitted that the officer, Kyle Endres, actually hit Jhamal.
Hundreds of people protested this latest display of wanton police brutality the following Tuesday. Protesters gathered near Knight Memorial Library and marched to the Providence Public Safety Complex, which contains the police department, fire department, and courts. Despite the protesters being peaceful, the police met them with heavy weapons and riot gear. There were even reports of police snipers on top of nearby buildings.
Cops Abused Arrested Protesters
One comrade, Isaiah-Tobias Lee, a trans* man and local organizer, was arrested by the Providence police during the protest even while complying with their commands. Providence PD established a line of 30-40 heavily armed riot cops to contain the protesters and push them down the street. Cops then donned gas masks and continued pushing the crowd down the street. Shortly after, Isaiah and several others were tackled and arrested by the cops despite not engaging in any violence. Isaiah was put in an illegal chokehold and, for some unknown reason, had his left shoe removed by the cops before being shoved into a paddy wagon in handcuffs. The cops cut his backpack off of his back with a knife, rather than simply allowing him to take it off himself. They also stole the first aid kit inside it.
Inside the vehicle, it was very hot, not ventilated, and crowded beyond capacity. One person, later found to be Jaylon, a cousin of Jhamal, began to have trouble breathing and suffered a seizure on the floor of the vehicle. Officers in the front of the vehicle could hear what was going on through a grate but deliberately ignored calls for help. When the back door was finally opened again, it was not to provide medical assistance, but to shove in yet another protester who was covered in blood and had nowhere else to sit but on Isaiah’s lap. No one was read their rights or informed what they were being charged with, as required by law. After spending the night in jail, and enduring endless verbal and physical abuse at the hands of the cops, Isaiah and other protesters were fingerprinted and photographed.
The next day, before being taken into court, the protesters were aggressively frisked — a particularly traumatic experience for a trans* person. Isaiah was released after court. Jaylon was taken to the hospital after suffering another seizure in police custody.
Cops Serve the Rich, not the People
Despite claiming to “protect and serve” the people, many cops seem to commit more offenses than they prevent. Evictions are on the rise during the pandemic, especially illegal ones, all of them passively enabled if not actively enforced by police. Black and disabled people are frequently murdered by police — for doing nothing — while cops abuse their privileges by doing things like using a patrol car loudspeaker to yell “Trump 2020” in a residential neighborhood. Police have never reliably policed their own, and even cops who never kill anyone still act as hired guns of the billionaire class, so mere reforms are not sufficient to stop these state-sanctioned crimes against the people. Defunding police departments may help rein them in, but only abolishing the entire capitalist system via workers’ struggle and replacing it with real democracy that liberates the oppressed and exploited sectors of our society, can end this kind of police violence for good.