Protests continue in Rhode Island after moped driver was critically injured in a crash involving police

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A second night of protests led to seven arrests Wednesday as people continued to demonstrate after a man was critically injured in a Sunday crash involving a moped driver who was being followed by a Providence police cruiser.

The Wednesday demonstrations brought dozens of activists into contact with squads of police. The rear windshields of two police cruisers were smashed out, a Providence officer was injured in the thigh and seven protesters were detained and arrested.

The confrontation between authorities and protesters unfolded in the same neighborhood where Jhamal Gonsalves was critically injured Sunday night in a crash involving his moped and a police cruiser. Gonsalves was in coma at a local hospital. 

A Providence police report released Thursday morning said the group was marching peacefully at first. Later, the group, estimated at 75 to 100 people, blocked all lanes of traffic on a road, the report says.

The flashpoint emerged after about 30 police officers formed a skirmish line around 10:30 p.m. local time at the same intersection where Gonsalves was injured on Sunday. Police pressed the crowd and ordered everyone, including news media, to disperse. 

Young men on ATVs and motorcycles continuously burned rubber, creating a smoky haze.

“The crowd was told numerous times to disperse or they would be arrested and continued to linger in the area and taunt police,” says the police report, which described the protesters as both “unruly” and “violent.”

Police face protesters near the border between Providence and Cranston, Rhode Island, Wednesday night.Police face protesters near the border between Providence and Cranston, Rhode Island, Wednesday night.
Police face protesters near the border between Providence and Cranston, Rhode Island, Wednesday night.

USA TODAY Network: What we know – and don’t know – about the Jhamal Gonsalves moped crash

On Sunday, Gonsalves was injured during a procession of what police described as hundreds of people on mopeds, ATVs and dirt bikes driving through the city.

The first public video from the scene Sunday showed a police SUV, driven by Providence officer Kyle Endres, following closely behind Gonsalves, who police say was riding a street-legal but unregistered moped.

A different police cruiser pulled into an intersection where Gonsalves was driving, at which point Gonsalves turned toward where the first cruiser came from, with Endres’ cruiser following closely behind. 

At a critical moment, the video cuts away. Gonsalves was injured on the ground and police rushed to him; one yanked him away from the moped while others moved the moped. Gonsalves was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital, where he was in a coma. 

Police said Wednesday, after two more videos – a new cellphone video and a surveillance video – were released, an accident reconstruction team would have to determine whether the cruiser hit the moped, as family members and at least one witness have asserted. The cruiser struck a stop sign at the corner there and knocked it down, police said. 

Footage: Providence releases two new videos of moped crash

Endres, a six-year veteran of the force, has been placed on desk duty.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza on Wednesday pleaded for people to reserve judgment and pledged transparency. 

Invoking his use-of-force review policy, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha said he’d help make a determination about whether criminal charges are warranted.

Protests on Tuesday saw more than a dozen people arrested and a police officer injured.

Police on the scene of a protest in Providence. [The Providence Journal / Mark Reynolds]Police on the scene of a protest in Providence. [The Providence Journal / Mark Reynolds]
Police on the scene of a protest in Providence. [The Providence Journal / Mark Reynolds]

Contributing: Providence Journal Staff

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This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Jhamal Gonsalves in coma after moped-police crash; protesters arrested