(JTA) — The Immigration and Customs Enforcement official who drove a pickup truck into a row of Jewish protesters in Rhode Island has been placed on leave, and police have announced that they will investigate the incident.
Five of the protesters were hospitalized, according to Tal Frieden, an organizer of the protest. The incident occurred Wednesday night at a protest in front of an ICE detention center in Central Falls, a Providence suburb.
The protest, organized by the new Jewish group Never Again Action, ended after an ICE official named Thomas Woodworth drove the pickup into a row of protesters who were blocking the entrance to the detention facility’s parking lot.
“Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility Warden Daniel Martin is also conducting a top to bottom review of the incident, Wyatt correctional officers’ response, and the Wyatt’s protocols regarding protest activities outside of the facility,” a statement from the detention center said. “The Wyatt supports the First Amendment right of citizens to peacefully protest on public property surrounding the facility, and the First Amendment right of journalists to report on the facility.”
Frieden said two protesters were injured by Woodworth, including one who suffered a broken leg, internal bleeding and a possible back fracture. In addition, Frieden said three protesters sustained injuries when correctional officers subsequently used pepper spray on them.
Frieden, who was not injured, was sitting near the protesters as the truck came upon the group.
“I heard someone yell that there’s a car coming, and turned around and saw the truck approach the crowd over my shoulder, and jumped out of the way,” said Frieden, who has attended protests against ICE in New York and Washington, D.C. “I know intellectually that this violence occurs every day in our communities across the country, but this is a stark reminder that ICE will go to any lengths to inflict violence on immigrants and those who stand with immigrants.”
State Police, as well as the Rhode Island attorney general’s office, are investigating the incident. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza came out in support of the protesters.
“We in #PVD stand with @NeverAgainActn and our community members who were there to say that we will not stand for this,” Elorza tweeted.
Never Again Action was founded earlier this year to protest ICE’s detention of undocumented immigrants, as well as U.S. immigration policy.
On Sunday, 40 protesters were arrested at one of the group’s demonstrations at a brick-and-mortar Amazon store in New York City. The group was protesting Amazon’s contracting with ICE.