By Carmen Russo
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – After the Dallas shooting that left five police officers dead, Governor Gina M. Raimondo organized a press conference Friday to show respect for the victims. At the West End Recreation Center, elected officials, law enforcement officers and community leaders joined Raimondo to express the need for action against violence of any kind, also referring to victims of controversial police shootings in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge.
“We’ve grown almost accustomed to this sort of violence in America,” Raimondo said. “In one week: Dallas, Minnesota, Louisiana. And although it’s become something that we’re used to hearing, we can’t allow ourselves to become callous to the tragedies that these are.”
“It’s also time for action,” she continued. “It’s time to recognize the real racial injustice and racial disparities in our society and in our criminal justice system. Not deny it, but take action to fix it.”
After Raimondo, speakers included Senator Jack Reed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, State Police Colonel Steven O’Donnell, NAACP Providence Branch President Jim Vincent, Commissioner of Public Safety Steven Paré, and Providence community leader Kobe Davis. Each speaker expressed condolences for the victims of this week’s violent events and echoed the governor’s call for action. Senator Reed encouraged constructive dialogue to build mutual understanding and respect within communities, proper training for law enforcement officials and the recognition of all forms of racism. Colonel O’Donnell discussed the importance of not only reducing violence, but building stronger relationships between law enforcement and citizens.
Many of the speakers were at the same recreation center the night before, celebrating the opening night of the Midnight Basketball League, a program aimed at preventing violence in the city. While the program was acknowledged as a successful step in the right direction, NAACP Providence President Jim Vincent warned against becoming complacent.
“I’m proud to say that in Rhode Island we have worked with the community leaders here and the police here to make sure we have as best a chance to have as little violence as possible in our community,” Vincent said. “But I have to add that in Dallas, they also seem like they have excellent community-police relations. So I want to say that it can happen anywhere. We have to be vigilant. We have to work hard.”