In May Day march, protesters call for passage of police profiling ordinance

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Hundreds marched through the streets of Providence on Monday to call attention to a number of social justice issues, including one recent controversy at City Hall.

The May Day march started at Burnside Park and made almost a dozen stops before culminating at Armory Park. Similar rallies were held across the country as part of International Workers Day, during which attendees spoke out in favor of worker’s rights while protesting President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

“There are a bunch of issues we’re going to be tackling today,” said Josh Kilby, a member of the May Day Planning Committee.

As attendees arrived at Providence City Hall, chants of “pass the CSA!” could be heard, referring to a controversial ordinance designed to curb racial profiling by city police. The Community Safety Act received initial approval from the City Council, but both supporters and opponents were shocked last week when councilors voted to put the matter on hold until June.

“I’m here because I was so stunned when the CSA was stymied last week. What happened?” asked Marty Mann of Providence.

“The Community Safety Act is something that’s important to all of us,” said Kilby.

The ordinance seeks to prohibit police from relying on everything from race, ethnicity or language to housing status or political affiliation as a reason to suspect an individual has committed or is about to commit a crime. It also prohibits officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status or from complying with requests from other agencies – including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – to support or assist operations conducted solely for the purpose of enforcing federal civil immigration law.

Support for the CSA began to dissipate after Police Chief Hugh Clements said he doesn’t believe it’s necessary. Relentless opposition from the city’s police union was also alarming to some council members.

More than a dozen Providence police officers oversaw the march, providing an escort along the route that covered about a mile and a half.

“Let’s work with the police and get a secure situation for this city,” added Mann.

Organizers said it took about two months to plan Monday’s march.