Correctional Officer Suspended After Truck Driven Into Jewish ICE Protesters

Screenshot, Steve Ahlquist
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A correctional officer was suspended Thursday, a day after a truck drove into protesters outside a Rhode Island facility that houses ICE detainees.

A statement from Wyatt Detention Facility, where the protest took place, said Capt. Thomas Woodworth had been suspended. The statement did not say whether Woodworth was the man driving the truck. Protesters filming the Wednesday evening incident were heard on video chanting the name “Woodworth” after the truck’s operator came into their view.

“Captain Thomas Woodworth has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the independent investigation being conducted by the Rhode Island State Police, and the Wyatt’s internal investigation,” the detention center’s statement read.

Videos from the protesters outside the detention center showed a man in a truck driving up to a line of demonstrators blocking the facility’s entrance, pausing as some began to lean against the front of his truck, and then again driving forward into protesters. Organizers told TPM one man suffered a fractured leg and potential internal bleeding.

Amid the commotion, someone — protesters said it was guards at the facility — pepper sprayed the crowd and the truck continued into the parking lot.

The Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office said Thursday that it was investigating the incident.

In a statement, the office said it was “working with the Rhode Island State Police” on “investigating what transpired last night at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls.”

“Once we have a full understanding of the relevant facts, we will determine how to proceed,” the statement continued. “Peaceful protest is a fundamental right of all Americans; it is unfortunate last night’s situation unfolded as it did. We urge all to exercise restraint as our investigation proceeds.”

Never Again Action, a Jewish activist group that has staged a series of protests across the country against the treatment of detained undocumented immigrants, organized Wednesday’s protest at the Wyatt Detention Center near Providence, Rhode Island. The group said five protesters had been transported to the hospital for non-life threatening injuries, allegedly resulting from both the truck and from the pepper spray that was deployed soon after.

Organizers claimed the man driving the truck was a detention center employee, and that other detention center employees pepper sprayed demonstrators shortly afterward to clear the way for the vehicle to enter the Wyatt grounds. Those details remain unconfirmed, though video of the incident shows the driver wearing what appears to be a badge on his shirt.

James Diossa, the mayor of Central Falls, where the detention center is located, called the incident “disturbing” and said it occurred between “Wyatt staff and protesters.”

Rhode Island House Minority Leader Blake Filippi wrote on Twitter that he expected “swift and decisive action by law enforcement.”

“The actions by the truck driver don’t appear to be in self defense, or defense of others, from imminent harm — the only justification for violence,” Filippi said.

Wyatt is operated by the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation, a “quasi-public corporation” governed by a board appointed by the Central Falls mayor. It houses detainees for other federal agencies in addition to ICE.

This post has been updated.

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