Jewish activists were protesting an ICE facility when a truck drove straight toward them
It was the kind of video you can't take your eyes off of no matter how horrible the end result appears to be. A group of protestors were peacefully organized outside an ICE detention center in Rhode Island, opposing the federal government's policy toward immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Suddenly, a truck enters into the camera view of a protester and heads directly toward the crowd of 300 young people.
The protesters don't budge, shouting at the driver, "The whole world is watching!"
Only at last instant does the driver come to a screeching halt, mere feet from potentially driving over the crowd.
Since being posted to Twitter, over two million people have viewed the gut-wrenching footage.
Thankfully, no one was seriously injured in the incident, though some of the protesters claim they were pepper-sprayed by correctional facility officers when they jumped on the truck. Nonetheless, the moment provoked an outcry from people around the nation. It was a short moment, perhaps literally inches from a fatal disaster that could have exploded into something far worse.
And the symbolism cannot be ignored. The group, Never Again Action, is composed of young Jewish activists who see glaring similarities between America's current detention policies and those tactics employed by Nazi Germany against Jews during World War 2.
People demanded accountability and answers. Was it an ICE official? An unhinged counter-protester who walked back from horrific violence at the last moment?
The specifics remain unclear but one important detail has emerged: Capt. Thomas Woodworth, a correctional officer at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, has resigned.
Officials at the privately contracted detention facility have not revealed whether Woodworth was the still-unnamed individual behind the wheel but his resignation strongly suggested it was either him or someone working under his authority.
It's a start but still so far from an ending. Never Again Action posted a statement after the resignation demanding more answers accountability from those operating the facility:
"We are glad to hear that Captain Woodworth has resigned. We hope that will not be the end of an effort to hold him accountable for attempting to run over multiple Jewish youth and elders peacefully protesting.
However, Woodworth's resignation is just the beginning. First, he should face criminal charges for his actions which endangered the lives of protesters on Wednesday night. The other officers who indiscriminately pepper-sprayed a distraught and traumatized crowd must face accountability for the violence they enacted, which sent three more people to the hospital.
We expect the investigation by the Rhode Island State Police and the Attorney General to continue and to address the violence and dehumanization that is an integral part of the ICE detention process. If these officers felt empowered to attack a group of protesters in front of the public and the media, imagine what kind of violence must be taking place inside the prison, out of site, against vulnerable immigrants and people of color.
That is why we will continue to take action. Woodworth has resigned, but many others remain. We urge all ICE officers to join us in making the moral choice: quit your jobs, stand with us.
Our Jewish heritage demands that we stand against dehumanization and atrocities. "Never Again" means that we will not give up until the Wyatt is shut down and all detainees are released, and until Rhode Island acts to ban the operation of private, for-profit prisons in the state. "Never Again" means that we will keep protesting until all immigrants have been released from prisons and concentration camps, and until papers have been secured for the 11 million undocumented people living in this country."
A shocking tragedy was avoided. But it's still symbolic of just how heated and divisive this issue has become. Young people are literally lining up to defend the human rights and dignity of people they have never met and are unlikely to ever meet. It's an act of compassion and beauty in the face of terror. It's an act of defiance that reminds us of the very best of what it means to be an American, standing up to the face of oppression. That it comes against the face of our government says so much about the challenges that lie ahead but offers faith and inspiration for those who are willing to demand truth and accountability from those in power.