This is John Prince’s story of the night he filmed the Providence Police, and was assaulted by them. It’s based on the complaint Prince gave to Internal Affairs.
Between 9:30 and 9:45pm on Wednesday, September 10th, Prince, a Providence resident, heard “hollering” outside his first floor window. Investigating, he stepped outside and saw two plainclothes police officers detaining two women and asking “intimidating” questions while going through their handbags. (A third officer was in a nearby car.)
Prince didn’t like the officers’ tone in dealing with the women. He thought they were being disrespectful, and said, “You don’t need to talk to them like that.”
The police officer told Prince to mind his own business, and then asked him to identify himself. Prince did not identify himself. Instead, he went back into his house for his cellphone, and came out to record the officers.
The officer in charge wanted to know why Prince was filming him, stating that he was was an undercover officer, and was “not supposed” to be filmed. According to Prince, “He proceeded to ask me where I was going to send the film, and demanded that I give him my ID.”
Prince said, “I refuse to surrender my ID to you,” and asked why the officer wanted it.
“I want to know who’s filming me,” said the the officer.
John Prince is well known as an activist for his work with DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality). He works with Behind the Walls, an effort to reform prisons, and has been working to pass the “Community Safety Act,” which proponents maintain would be “a comprehensive city ordinance to ban racial profiling and change the way that police interact with members of our community” and “a strong first step toward shifting the focus from criminalizing people of color to addressing the root causes that perpetuate violence in our communities.”
So the police officers, knowingly or not, were dealing with a man who knew his rights and was not afraid to stick up for them. Instead of giving his name, Prince asked the officers to identify themselves.
“My name is Obama,” said the first officer, referring to the name on the hat Prince was wearing.
“My name is John Doe,” said the second officer.
As the cops laughed at their attempted humor, Prince decided to go back into his home.
This was when the first officer ordered the second one to, “Get that phone!”
Concerned for his safety, Prince ran back to his apartment. The second officer leaped the fence, and chased Prince through the door and into the hallway. The officer grabbed Prince and pushed him into the wall. As Prince reached for the doorknob of his apartment, the officer took him down, sending him “crashing to the floor.”
The officer got the phone, then left the building. Prince followed him out and saw the first officer was now deleting the video.
“That’s what you get for interfering with the police,” said the officer who had just tackled Prince inside his own home. Prince had hurt both his ankle and his neck in the scuffle.
After deleting the video, the first officer threw Prince’s phone into the bushes outside his house.
Yesterday Prince testified at an Internal Affairs hearing at the Providence Public Safety Complex on Washington St. He held a press conference to talk about his ordeal.
In the complaint Prince filed, he named Sgt. Roger Aspinall, Detective Francisco Guerra and Detective Louis Gianfrancesco as the officers involved.
According to Shannah Kurland, Prince’s lawyer, it may take a month for Internal affairs to issue any kind of report.
Here’s John Prince telling his story:
Here’s the full press conference, unedited: