Several people were injured Wednesday night when a guard at a Rhode Island prison that works with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement drove a truck through a crowd of Jewish protesters, organizers said.
The protesters from Never Again Action, a group of young Jews calling for ICE to be shut down and immigrant detention centers to be shut down nationwide, had been protesting outside the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, blocking its entrance.
Just before 10 p.m. ET, a man in a prison guard uniform pulled up his truck right in front of the protesters and honked his horn, video of the incident shows. He briefly stopped, and the organizers surrounded the car, chanting, "Shame!"
Then the man accelerated, driving the car straight through the protesters, many of whom screamed and jumped out of the way.
"He very clearly and deliberately drove a truck into a line of demonstrators," Aaron Regunberg, an organizer with the group and a former Rhode Island state representative, told BuzzFeed News.
Several people were struck by the car, Regunberg said, with two being brought to the hospital as a result. One suffered a fractured leg and back injuries. A hospital spokesperson declined to comment, citing patient privacy laws.
Police did not intervene, and the man was not arrested, according to Regunberg.
Moments after the truck incident, several other prison guards approached the protesters and pepper-sprayed them.
"For all we know, he’s there now, working with complete unaccountable authority over immigrant detainees," he said. "If they're willing to do that to us, we can't imagine the violence the ICE detainees behind those walls may be subject to every day."
ICE officials and a spokesperson for the prison did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for the Central Falls Police Department told BuzzFeed News that its officers "are investigating jointly with the Rhode Island attorney general’s office and Rhode Island State Police."
In a statement, a spokesperson for the state attorney general's office confirmed it was investigating "what transpired last night at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls."
"Once we have a full understanding of the relevant facts, we will determine how to proceed," the spokesperson said. "Peaceful protest is a fundamental right of all Americans; it is unfortunate last night’s situation unfolded as it did. We urge all to exercise restraint as our investigation proceeds.”
Never Again Action organizer Amy Anthony said she wasn't sure if police were on the scene at the moment the car drove through the crowd, but said they were present shortly after.
“They were not very involved, I have to say," Anthony said. "They didn’t approach the truck or driver, and I didn’t see them speak with the driver at all.”
Police did not take statements from injured people, even though many of them asked to give them, Anthony said. Now the group is encouraging those injured to go to police again to give statements.
Regunberg said they "got pretty lucky" that more people weren't injured more severely by the truck.
"I don't know for sure what the motive behind that officer was," he said, "but we certainly know we have a president who is encouraging violence against immigrants and his political opponents, and we've got a lot of people ... being encouraged from that to take their own hate and put it into violent action."
This protest was one of many that Never Again Action has held recently in observation of Tisha B'Av, a Jewish day of mourning for a number of tragedies Jews have faced, particularly the destruction of the Temple in ancient Jerusalem.
The incident occurred just two days after the second anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist killed a woman when he drove a car into a crowd of people.
A videographer who filmed the incident tweeted that "I thought I was filming the next Heather Heyer moment."
The timing was not lost on the Never Again Action protesters.
"This is not the first time that this tactic has been used against protesters taking a stand against growing fascism in this country," Alyssa Rubin, an organizer with the group, told BuzzFeed News. "As resistance grows, the right also becomes more emboldened to take action against us."