Thousands march peacefully 4 days after ‘mob’ violence

Updated at 1:38 p.m.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Scores of protesters dressed in black rallied peacefully in downtown Providence on Friday to denounce police brutality against people of color.

Chanting “hands up don’t shoot” and “no justice, no peace,” the protesters gathered in Kennedy Plaza downtown and by Central High School on the city’s west side before marching to the Statehouse.

At one point, the large gathering knelt in unison. Some state police troopers also joined hands with protesters for a moment of prayer.

A number of downtown businesses, including part of the Providence Place mall, boarded up their storefronts ahead of the protest as a precaution.

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But Police Chief Hugh Clements said his department was working with the organizers and wasn’t aware of any plans for violence. The state National Guard was also on hand to help keep the peace.

Democratic Mayor Jorge O. Elorza imposed a 9 p.m. curfew after downtown businesses, including at the Providence Place mall, were vandalized and robbed earlier this week.

Authorities have said that incident was not a protest of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, but a coordinated attack by what they called a “mob.”

More than 60 people were arrested and several police officers suffered minor injuries.

On Saturday, Elorza announced the curfew that had been scheduled to last until June 9th had been lifted.

Democratic Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, who met Friday with organizers at the Statehouse ahead of the rally, said she supported the efforts and was committed to finding ways to promote racial equality in Rhode Island.

“We’re here today to say loudly and clearly and unequivocally, black lives matter,” she said.

Raimondo also had a stern warning for those looking to incite violence. “We are prepared,” she said. “We will hold them accountable.”

Gary Dantzler, an organizer with the local chapter of Black Lives Matter, said the group is seeking a range of police reforms, including better training for officers and stronger laws to hold them accountable if they break laws or violate department policies.

“We don’t hate police officers,” he said.

(ADDS 9th paragraph noting curfew was lifted.)