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Photo: Statue of Roger Williams overlooking his Providence – by Dodge House
In 1636, Roger Williams, a reformed Baptist theologian and religious exile from Massachusetts named the capital city of Rhode Island, Providence. It’s meaning an area “in honor of God’s merciful Providence which he believed was responsible for revealing such a haven for him and his followers.
Haven is a word not many would use to describe the capital of Rhode Island, home to most who are reading this – and Providence seems to spiral more into chaos by the day. A litany of events plays out day by day – stabbings, almost nightly shootings, gangs and gang violence, assaults, robberies, peaceful demonstrations turned into riots, destruction of property, ATVs zooming around sidewalks and streets, with no safe haven, not even inside a high-end shopper’s mall.
The impact on tourism. On business. Evening after-hours no longer being planned downtown after a stabbing occurred in a parking garage next to a high-end bar. Diners not going to the outside dining options geared to try and save the Federal Hill restaurant community, because Black Lives Matter and FTP demonstrations have included stopping at diners’ tables and shouting at them, sometimes through a megaphone, sometimes blocking sidewalks and blocking intersections so drivers and pedestrians can’t move until the protesters decide they can.
Media scrum, some new media on the scene follow them around. Documenting what is happening in Providence. Lately they have been targeted, themselves, for photographing the protesters because “we could lose our day jobs”. Then there are the videos – posted on digital sites and YouTube, and mainly on Twitter, sometimes on Facebook – for all to see. Demonstrators and sometimes those arrested keep their Facebook profiles out in the open. We see where they work, where they go to school, etc. Grad students, 2nd grade teachers, homeless. However, capturing what is happening in our capital city is integral to addressing the problems.
Who will forget the sight of Garden City Shopping Center in Cranston and the Warwick Mall in Warwick, fortressed by National Guard, State Police, concrete barriers, and K-9s because of threats to destroy and burn them? Without the visuals, a description would be beyond imagination.
Shootings, stabbings, and gangs, oh my…
Shootings in daylight have taken place around the Providence Courthouse and City Hall. Lately, they center around Branch Avenue and Douglas Avenue areas. Gangs. Shootings and retaliations, night after night. We wake up and check Twitter to see where the latest shooting has been and now we hear, at least twice, that it was steps from the Mayor of Providence’s house.
Racing around town…
ATVs are now crushed by a joint effort of the Providence Police and the Mayor’s office. 33 were crushed the other day as the mayor announced a zero tolerance for this activity, which has increased in the summer and harassed neighborhoods all around the city.
The India Point and surrounding Providence streets area are soon to be equipped with removable strips that are designed to slow traffic or have damage to the vehicle.
No haven in the mall
A fatal stabbing at Providence Place Mall has left a growing unease for shoppers – with the latest incident happening during late morning hours, with hardly a break in the Food Court dining hour. This stabbing has followed several stabbings and acts of violence inside the mall, for several years now.
BLM – FTP – ProvX
Black Lives Matter “peaceful demonstrations” have been “hijacked”, according to one sympathizer, by violent groups – some with Antifa-like intentions. and downtown destruction is nearly a weekly occurrence. Perhaps the worst of these incidents was the major BLM protest that culminated with our Governor, unmasked during the COVID emergency in her eagerness to calm the growing crowds and literally protect the RI State House from violent acts.
Knowing that hundreds of protesters – some from nonviolent BLM protests mixed with FTP (F— The Police) groups and others – were face to face with Providence Police, RI State Police, and National Guard – and nothing good was about to happen, she later told the public that the violent group’s intent was to burn the State House, burn the Providence Place Mall, and burn the downtown.
Intentions to take that violence to Cranston and Warwick were documented. Downtown destruction resulted in small businesses and restaurants being bordered up, some minority owned businesses as well. A few arrests were made, most notably for burning a Providence Police vehicle.
No place safe – not Governor or Mayor’s Homes
Both homes have been victimized by demonstrations outside of them by groups we hesitate to label as Black Lives Matter, but around the same time as those protests. The Governor’s house has had at least two incidents, with banging of pots and pans and shining of lots and chanting. The Mayor’s home has been similar, but recently shootings right around the corner have also happened.
City Councilor Potty-Mouth, Kat Kirwin
A video where Kat Kirwin, Providence City Councilor, was seen confronting police who were at a downtown facility which was playing music outside of the sidewalk, illegally, was broadcast far and wide in Providence. Her vitriolic tweets have even included one at the Bishop of Providence, Bishop Thomas Tobin, who posted a photo of Christopher Columbus – it read: “Tobin stays on brand in the worst way. Evil worships evil I guess?”.
Kirwin identifies as: a law student since August of 2020 at Roger Williams University School of Law, where she is “looking forward to thinking critically about carceral system and utilizing the law to support environmental and social justice movements”; a Providence Councilor and Director of Communications for the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence”.
Among many Twitter postings, most anti-police, here is her Twitter post following the arrests that happened after the Route 95 blockade protest (story below) – she is referencing one of those 7 who were arrested:
Dangerous Highway Antics
Twice, in the middle of the night, Route 95 North has been blocked by violent protesters. Two nights ago, it was with a U-Haul truck positioned perpendicular to 4-5 lanes of oncoming traffic. The first time it was a Black Lives Matter-named demonstration and people walked up on the highway and were quickly escorted to where they could get off the highway, over and around a fence. The other night resulted in a total blockage of the highway, but this time some arrests. The cause was said to be the protest at the RI State House to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day. The speaking agenda at the State House had participants from Black Lives Matter but the group was very small, less than 50. The blockade of the highway happened a half hour after the official protest ended.
In making arrests, the RI State Police issued this statement providing details regarding “the arrest of seven individuals who blocked Route 95 North in Providence last night.
The investigation revealed that the U-Haul box truck and two other vehicles stopped in the lane on travel on Route 95 North in the area of the Providence Place Mall and stopped all four lanes of travel. Individuals from these vehicles then placed several traffic cones in the road and stood holding signs and preventing other motorists from passing by. The roadway was closed for approximately seven minutes and caused traffic to backup for approximately ½ mile.
“This was an extremely dangerous situation, but luckily no one was hurt by the reckless conduct of these individuals,” said Colonel James M. Manni, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety. “While we respect the right to peacefully protest, we have zero tolerance for those who endanger the lives of others by purposefully blocking traffic and will arrest and charge anyone who does so. The safety of everyone on the highway is our highest priority and we are thankful for the reports from the public that helped us to respond quickly.”
According to State Police, on Monday, October 12, 2020, at approximately 9:30 PM, Troopers received reports that several individuals were blocking all lanes of travel on Route 95 North. While responding, Troopers received information that a U-Haul box truck and two passenger vehicles had stopped northbound traffic by parking perpendicular to the travel lanes. Prior to Troopers arrival, the vehicles had left the scene and all lanes were open. Troopers observed a U-Haul box truck traveling on Orms Street and stopped the vehicle in the area of Route 95. The operator of the truck was identified as:
Kade Page, age 24 of 89 Central Street, apartment #2, East Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
Troopers also arrested the following individuals who were located in the rear of the U-Haul box truck:
· Devin A. Costa, age 24, of 136 King Phillip Road, Rumford, Rhode Island
· Cody B. Boyce, age 24, 107 Jenckes Hill Road, Lincoln, Rhode Island
· Evan C. Laferriere, age 23, of 45 Watson Avenue, Attleboro, MA
· Najeli Rodriguez, age 19, 30 Grafton Street, Providence, Rhode Island
· Julia A. Unger, age 21, of 19 Elizabeth Road, Narragansett, Rhode Island
· A fifteen-year-old juvenile male (name/ address withheld)
All adult individuals were charged with Disorderly Conduct (RIGL § 11-45-1) and Conspiracy (RIGL § 11-1-6) and held overnight at State Police Headquarters for their arraignment in Providence District Court this morning. The juvenile male was released to a guardian and will be petitioned to Providence Family Court. One arrestee, Unger, is a graduate teaching assistant at URI.
Felony charges for blocking a highway – Senator Lou Raptakis
Sen. Lou Raptakis is renewing efforts to upgrade from a misdemeanor to a felony the blocking of a highway by demonstrators. Charges would be upgraded from a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge to a felony, with at least 6o days behind bars, and up to 3 years. Raptakis is calling for stiffer penalties if the highway blockade is a planned event, and from 5 to 30 years in prison if someone dies as a result. “We don’t want to turn Providence into Portland and Seattle,” he said.
Paolino Properties Building
Large plate glass windows shattered in the night by a man wielding chairs and objects – intent on breaking the well-lit 100 Westminster Street, owned by Joe Paolino, Jr. The destruction made its way around social media on video. The man was arrested, known to be a homeless man who travels around the country, recently having moved here from the west coast. The next afternoon Joe Paolino, Jr. held a press conference.
He called the incident an example of “our city failing its people.
“It is time for our city’s leadership to step up and work together with law enforcement and the community on ways that we can prevent crimes before they happen,” he said.
Paolino called on the Providence’s elected officials to “support the city’s police department and expand partnerships between law enforcement officials and mental health services.
“Enough is enough,” Paolino said in a press release. “With all the violent crime we’ve seen lately, we cannot simply defund our police without a plan for how to provide the community with the support that it needs.” He also noted that “a man like this shouldn’t be on the streets – we should be able to help him”, referring to the arrested individual, Wilfredo Catlin, 33, of no known address, thought to have come to the city only recently, who had run around the Westminster Street area with a machete.
City of Providence Operations Review & Budget Analysis of the Public Safety Department
Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza on September 24th announced an engagement with PFM’s Center for Justice and Safety Finance, which will be conducting an independent budget analysis and operations review of the City’s Public Safety Department. The goal of the review and analysis is to provide a breakdown of possible savings and efficiencies in public safety operations to increase capacity for prevention-first investments and approaches in sectors like housing, education, health care, mental health and social services, and workforce training, among others.
This weekend the city of Providence, in conjunction with the city of Central Falls will hold a gun buyback program, offering more money for stolen guns than owned guns. The gun buy-back event was announced within an hour of a press conference following the fatal stabbing at the Providence Place Mall. The event has received criticism from the law enforcement community, various media groups, and legal gun-owners who may see this as a way to “unload” older guns and make some money, too, and no more effective than any other PR event. Notably, a theft of legal guns from an owner happened a few months ago with more than 100 guns being put into circulation.
Another Providence City Councilor heard from:
Crime Spiraling Out of Control – City Council Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci, Jr.
On October 12th, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci, Jr. issued a press release regarding the uptick in crime in Providence. It is printed, here:
“We faced yet another violent weekend in our City, and it’s time for my City Council colleagues and I, along with Mayor Elorza, to provide the support that our police department needs to serve and protect.
More importantly, we need a mayor and a commissioner that is going to support the enforcement of laws and start making our City safe again. I have stated several times that we need to remove the handcuffs from our police and let them do their job.
Residents and city taxpayers should feel safe where they live and deserve to have a police force that serves and upholds our community’s quality of life.
Our City went from a having a low-crime status just months ago, to now having a crime rate that appears to be spiraling out of control. There have been shootings, kidnapping, and other serious crimes just in the past two weeks.
We need to ensure that our hardworking residents and taxpayers live in a safe community. They deserve nothing less.
Last night – as we go to publication – 3 shot outside the RI School for the Deaf, next to Corliss Park playground
Five people were shot outside of Corliss Park and the RI School for the Deaf – in near proximity to a playground and housing for those with disabilities. At least one is reported to have died. The victims arrived at RI Hospital in their bullet ridden car.
Providence released statistics on crime moments before the shooting of five. Aggravated assaults involving guns are up 150% for one month, compared to the same time last year.
There have been 13 homicides to date. Major David Lapatin said, “the stats are not off the charts compared to last year, it really isn’t; it’s just all happening at once and it is an uptick. We’ve had upticks before and we’ve dealt with them and we’ve brought it back down and we’ll do that again.”
Lapatin has said before that people should feel safe in Providence and go about their business – the shootings and stabbings are targeted (gang related) and not targeted to the general public.
Where do we go from here?