Providence protesters, police face off after moped driver, 24, allegedly hit by police vehicle

Providence protesters, police face off after moped driver, 24, allegedly hit by police vehicle

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Tensions escalated in Providence, R.I., late Tuesday night, after a weekend crash in which a police cruiser allegedly struck a moped rider, leaving the man in critical condition, according to reports.

At least 19 rioters were arrested as hundreds took the streets against local law enforcement. The overnight demonstration saw fireworks set off and objects, including glass bottles and rocks, thrown at police. At least one officer was injured. 

"Tonight, the men and women of the Providence Police Department showed extreme professionalism while witnessing their city, yet again, be attacked by reckless protesters," Providence Police wrote on Twitter. "Our department is second to none, and we will face any and all matters of adversity head on, as we always do."

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The unrest was prompted by a video, widely shared on social media, that allegedly showed a Sunday incident in which a police cruiser drove from behind into the moped of Jhamal Gonsalves, 24 – a member of a local biker community — sending him to the ground.

Some members of the community said the video showed that the cruiser hit Gonsalves, a Black man, but police said it wasn't clear yet if that was the case, according to the Providence Journal. They urged the public to hold off judgment.

Police vehicles are seen in Providence, R.I. (Providence PD Facebook page)

Gonsalves' mother, Tia Tribble Perry said he remained in a coma at a local area hospital on Tuesday, the paper reported.

Protesters on Tuesday originally began marching down Elmwood Avenue around 7 p.m., amid chants of “Justice for Jhamal,” and “Black Lives Matter."

Bikers revved their engines and burned rubber, which appeared to be their own way of showing support to Gonsalves, a professional dirt bike racer, according to a video on Twitter by Darren Botelho, a reporter with Providence's WLNE-TV.

Police and protesters eventually squared off when marchers arrived at the Providence Public Safety Complex just before 8 p.m., the Providence Journal reported. Officers in riot gear formed a line as protesters later pressed against metal gates.

Some of the protesters then chucked objects at the police line, as fireworks exploded in the area. The violent response came after Mark Gonsalves Sr., Jhamal's father, asked the crowd to remain peaceful, according to the paper.

Police continued to clash and push back protesters throughout the night. The crowd was told to disperse because authorities deemed the gathering was no longer a protest.

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“The Providence police used beyond great restraint,” Col. Hugh T. Clements Jr., chief of the Providence police said Tuesday night, according to the Providence Journal. “By that point they’d already thrown a dozen objects at the police, they’d already fired off several pieces of fireworks. That’s why the order was given to disperse and move.”

Authorities said those arrested included 13 men, five women, and one juvenile.

After the unrest subsided, Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré said the department on Wednesday would release more information, as well as videos, of the incident, according to the paper. 

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Paul Gonsalves, 20, a cousin of Jhamal, called him an "amazing" and kind-hearted" person.

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