PROVIDENCE — Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has called in the RI National Guard and there are curfews in Providence, Cranston and Warwick after hundreds of rioters overwhelmed police, broke into and looted Providence Place Mall Monday night.
“I am prepared to take all necessary steps to keep the people of Rhode Island safe. To that end I’ve directed the activation of the Rhode Island National Guard to assist our state and local police, today and in the days ahead,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo said hundreds of National Guard troops are ready to protect the state’s infrastructure, support the RI State Police and local police.
Starting tonight, Providence’s curfew runs from 9 p.m. till 8 a.m. The curfew will last for seven days before it must be extended by a vote of the Providence City Council.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré said the Providence curfew pertains to foot traffic, and not vehicles.
Warwick’s curfew begins tonight at 8 p.m. and will be lifted at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning.
While the Warwick curfew is in place, no person or vehicle may be present on any roadway, park, or other place, with the following exceptions:
- Persons traveling to and from home, work, or places of worship;
- People returning home from voting in today’s Presidential Primary election;
- Medical and hospital personnel; Police, Fire, and any other first responders and emergency workers;
- Members of the media;
- Employees of the United States, the State of Rhode Island, and the City of Warwick;
- Military personnel, including, but not limited to, National Guard troops;
- Private emergency medical transport workers; and
- Individuals seeking emergency services.
The Warwick Police Department will be monitoring any protests or demonstrations in the City.
Cranston’s curfew begins tonight at 8 p.m., lasting until 5 a.m. tomorrow morning. Police will be on Patrol in high numbers. Only emergency or essential travel will be permitted.
Officials reject offer of federal troops
Raimondo and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza each rejected President Donald J. Trump’s suggestion of sending federal troops to the Ocean State in response to the violence.
“No,” Elorza stated simply when asked if he was considering the offer during a press conference Tuesday morning.
“I find his inciteful rhetoric to be, at best, unhelpful,” Raimondo said during a separate press conference Tuesday morning.
Details on the riot
Elorza said 65 people were arrested, 35 from Providence, five from Massachusetts and the rest hailing from other cities and towns in RI.
Paré said Providence Police were alerted to the possibility of violence at the mall and warned the businesses there. Acting on the information, the mall closed at 7 p.m. Monday night instead of 10 p.m., he said.
At 11:30 p.m., he said, 200 – 300 rioters stormed the building. Several made it past officers and entered the building.
“We had several dozen police officers, but we were overwhelmed with the number of people who wanted to get into the mall,” Pare said.
He estimated about 75 people got into the building, where about 18 businesses were damaged and looted by the group. Most of the damage was done to stores’ glass and the mall security system, Pare said.
Providence Police, with the aid of officers from Johnston, Cranston, Woonsocket and Warwick, drove the looters out onto Francis Street.
Elorza praised the professional conduct of Providence Police during the incident, as insults, bricks and bottles were thrown at them.
“Our police department showed the true professionals that they are and they made sure that they conducted themselves in a way that makes our city proud,” Elorza said.
Not a protest
“Make no mistake about it. What we saw here last night was not a protest,” Raimondo said, acknowledging the coincidence of the riot with protests against police violence nationwide after Minneappolis police killed George Floyd, with one officer kneeling on the man’s neck for several minutes as his fellow officers watched on Memorial Day.
“What we saw last night was an organized attack on our community. At a time when we are already vulnerable.” Raimondo said.
Elorza noted that the group of vandals were thwarted as they attempted to start fires inside the mall.
Raimondo said rioters were equipped with crowbars, flares and gasoline, and that the rioters also went to the State House and the Courthouse.
“I have to take a moment to praise the heroism of the Providence Police last night,” Raimondo said, lauding their professionalism and self-restraint.
“As bad as it was it would have been so much worse,” she said, but for their actions.