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‘It feels like deja vu’: Protesters demand end to police brutality after death of Daunte Wright  

Protesters gather around State House to honor Daunte Wright, speak out against police brutality, institutional racism

The late spring sun set over the Rhode Island State House Wednesday evening as protesters raised signs bearing bold letters reading: “Stop the war on Black Americans” and “Justice for George Floyd and Daunte Wright.”

In light of the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, the Black Lives Matter Rhode Island Political Action Committee held a protest Wednesday in front of the Rhode Island State House that gathered nearly 200 people.

The purpose of the protest was to both honor Wright's legacy and to demand systemic change, Harrison Tuttle, executive director of BLM RI PAC, told The Herald.

But Tuttle is “tired of being sick and tired.”

“It feels like deja vu like every single time we have a protest of someone that is killed in the streets or killed in their home, and is Black, at the hands of police,” Tuttle said. “I feel awful that I even have to participate in this because of the fact that things like this should not happen.”

Throughout the evening, members of BLM RI PAC and the community called for action from legislators and support from the Providence community to create meaningful change to end police brutality.

Tuttle spoke first, demanding “impactful change” instead of just “incremental” change. He advocated for defunding the police by reallocating its funds to support communities by creating jobs, “feeding the hungry” and providing quality education. Gesturing toward the State House, Tuttle demanded that politicians, especially moderate Democrats, join him in this advocacy effort.

Joshua Franco, founder and outreach director of BLM RI PAC, spoke directly after Tuttle, adding that it’s important to channel the anger that protesters feel right now into a fight against institutional racism. Like Tuttle, Franco believes defunding the police is necessary, and called for members of the community to occupy House seats instead of politicians who take corporate PAC money.

Miguel Sanchez, who spoke after Franco, called for the same, adding that in addition to the race for mayor, there are currently eight House seats that will open up in the State House in 2022. Like Franco, Sanchez urged community members to run to create a more representative government and enact change.

Dion Baker, a Baptist minister, recalled last summer’s national reckoning for racial justice. He also recalled the time his cousin in Dallas was “gunned down” by a police officer “for just jogging while wearing headphones.”

“I hear the tears of the mothers, I hear the tears of the sons and daughters that have lost their parents, I hear the aunts and cousins,” he said. “But you know what I hear most? I hear a community saying ‘God, hear me,’ and injustice is happening.”

Like Tuttle and Franco, he demanded grassroots change — specifically calling upon youth to carry the torch of activism.

“Keep moving, make them uncomfortable, because it’s only when people are uncomfortable that real change can happen,” Baker said.

David Morales MPA ’19, a state representative, also spoke to the importance of community involvement and commented on the police presence at the protest. Two police cars sat at the intersection of Francis and Gaspee streets while officers within the State House peered down at protesters from above.

Morales called for the police to be defunded and criticized police unions which, according to him, are the reason why officers responsible for crimes such as Wright’s murder aren’t held accountable.

Ariel Tavares, communications director of Reclaim RI, also spoke about the origins of police brutality and African American identity. Tavares’ speech centered upon the constant presence of police and policing “accidents” in the lives of Black people in America.

Brooklyn Toussaint, founder of local activist organization PROV X, next discussed the need for intersectionality in the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement needs to account not only for Black men who suffer at the hands of police, but women and nonbinary people as well, they added.

Speakers at the BLM RI PAC protest also held a vaccination drive for BIPOC, where members of the community could sign up for an appointment with just an email address. The campaign, driven by community leaders and legislators, registered over 3,000 people and 2600 vaccinated last week, according to Corinne Collier, senior adviser at BLM RI PAC.


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