Correctional Officer Drove Pickup Truck Into Group of Peaceful Protesters: He 'Ran Us Over'

A correctional officer drove a pickup truck into a group of Jewish peaceful demonstrators protesting outside the Wyatt Detention Center in Rhode Island on Wednesday night.

Hundreds of Jewish protesters, mostly members of Never Again Action, an activist group against the mistreatment of detained undocumented immigrants, gathered outside the Donald W. Wyatt Detention facility in Central Falls on Wednesday evening. The protesters stood blocking the entrance of the facility, linking arms while chanting for the abolition of ICE and the end to America's harsh immigration policies.

At around 10 p.m. local time, a dark-colored pickup truck drove slowly up to a group of roughly 40-50 protesters blocking the entrance to the location's parking lot, before driving straight through the crowd, according to a video uploaded to Twitter.

ICE protest
A man, allegedly a correctional officer, driving a truck rammed into a crowd of peaceful protesters blocking the Wyatt Detention Center in Rhode Island on Wednesday. Never Again Action Twitter/Screenshot

Amy Anthony, one of the protest's organizers, told Newsweek that the group has identified the man driving the truck as a correctional officer. "We have confirmed that the person driving the truck is a correctional officer who works for the detention facility," she said. "The driver was in his uniform when he hit the protestors. His rank and name were embroidered on his shirt and he was wearing a badge at the time."

Never Again Action claimed in a tweet that the truck belonged to an "ICE guard," however later clarified that he was a correctional officer in a press release.

In a statement on Thursday, the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility identified the driver as Captain Thomas Woodworth and revealed that he has been "placed on administrative leave pending the results of an independent investigation being conducted by the Rhode Island State Police, and the Wyatt's internal investigation."

The warden, Daniel Martin, is "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," they added. "Wyatt supports the First Amendment rights of citizens to peacefully protest on public property surrounding the facility."

Videos of the incident showed protesters screaming in panic as the car drove through the crowd. Shortly after the demonstrators began chanting "The whole world is watching" as they gathered around the truck.

Five protesters suffered non-life threatening injuries from being hit by the truck, Anthony told Newsweek. Two of the protesters were taken to hospital for their injuries. The extent of their injuries are currently unknown.

A dozen officers came out of the facility after protesters surrounded the truck and attempted to move the protesters, Anthony said. When the crowd did not disperse, the officers used pepper spray on several of the demonstrators, according to Anthony and a video of the incident.

I was in the crowd that was pepper sprayed outside of the Wyatt tonight. After the cops pepper spray the crowd, after they then pepper spray two defenseless protesters, you can see a cop target me even though I'm well away from him. All because I was filming.

— Long Johns Brown (@hoping_raging) August 15, 2019

Anthony also said that state and local police were on the scene, but did nothing to stop the driver.

"I can say that neither the local police nor the state police reacted in any way to stop the driver or apprehend the driver or help the crowd," she said. "The police did not do anything. They did not talk to the driver, they did not try to apprehend him. Many protesters were trying to give the police statements and they refused to take our statements." She added that between 100 and 150 people witnessed the attack.

Never Again Action also shared a video of the aftermath of the incident to social media. "After the first ICE guard ran us over with his truck, the rest of them ran over & pepper-sprayed us. The police present just stood by and watched, doing nothing," the group tweeted. "#NeverAgainMeans doing what it takes to #ShutDownICE. We'll be back."

After the first ICE guard ran us over with his truck, the rest of them ran over & pepper-sprayed us. The police present just stood by and watched, doing nothing.

We are #JewsAgainstICE, immigrants, and allies. #NeverAgainMeans doing what it takes to #ShutDownICE. We'll be back.

— ✡️ Never Again Action ✡️ (@NeverAgainActn) August 15, 2019

Despite the injuries her group faced, Anthony said Never Again Action is not deterred.

"Some of us were harmed tonight, but there are people ICE has detained that are harmed everyday. That's why we're doing what we're doing, and we're going to keep doing it," Anthony said.

In a statement to Newsweek, an ICE representative said the agency "fully respects the Constitutional rights of all people to peacefully and lawfully express their opinion," but will "continue to perform its immigration enforcement mission consistent with federal law."

ICE also stressed that the driver of the truck was employed by the Wyatt Detention Facility. "ICE personnel were not involved in the protest response that occurred Wednesday night," the spokesperson said, adding that ICE detainees are housed at the facility "through an intergovernmental service agreement with that city corporation."

Never Again Action is a mass mobilization of Jews who have been holding demonstrations across the country in recent months to protest the Trump administration and ICE for separating migrants families and the current crisis at the border.

Correction: This article previously stated that the officer driving the truck was an ICE guard. He is a correctional officer employed by the Wyatt Detention Facility. Although the facility has a contract with ICE, the officers and guards are not ICE employees.

Update: This story has been updated to include comment from the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility.

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