‘I don’t feel like it’s getting better’: BLM RI reflects on anniversary of Providence riot
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – It’s been one year since chaos broke out in Providence that rocked the city’s downtown. Storefronts were vandalized, the Providence Place Mall was looted, and a police cruiser was set ablaze during a riot that ended with 65 people arrested, just a handful from out of town.
On the anniversary of the riot, the leader of Black Lives Matter Rhode Island sat down with ABC6 to reflect on the events.
“I have mixed feelings about it. Tearing up the city’s not one of them, peace and solidarity is one of them that we look for as community leaders. But I also understand the other flip side of being African American in America,” said Brother Gary Dantzler, founder of BLM RI.
“It was all about the killings and mass killings in America,” he said. “Basically, George Floyd was probably the nail in the coffin.”
Dantzler said he predicted something like the June 1 riot would happen in Rhode Island and around the country.
The summer of 2020 was filled with protests and riots in response to police brutality towards Black people.
“It’s really painful to not be heard but also not be taken seriously as Black people in America,” said Dantzler. “On one hand, they did the right thing. On the other, they did the wrong thing.”
The riot broke out Monday night, days after a peaceful protest took place in the city following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The situation in Providence escalated Monday around 11 p.m. when people gained entrance into the Providence Place Mall, looted stores, set a Providence police cruiser on fire, and then made their way further downtown where storefronts were vandalized and looted in the area of Westminster Street.
The chaos lasted into the early morning hours, getting under control around 4 a.m. Tuesday.
“It’s one year anniversary, and I don’t feel like it’s getting better.”
Dantzler said, since the riot, people seem to be listening to the issues more, but not much is changing. He said a major change that needs to be made is funds going straight into communities rather than into police departments.
“Learning programs, educational programs, spiritual, mental health programs, the list goes on. I think that we paint a picture of America to be great and it’s really sad because the young, the youth are out there dying, they’re killing each other and no one really cares,” he said. “Just work together, change the policies and criminal law, change the policies of education, change the law on economic standards and opportunities that we need. We need trades and opportunities in our communities and that’s what we should be looking at.
“We learned, like, how violent we can be, and nothing got done. But if we all come together, we can make great change in America.”
© WLNE-TV 2021