Statement from Councilwoman Katherine Kerwin Regarding Recent Events at Fortnight

Jul 23, 2020 | 0 comments

Last night, I was at Fortnight just after 9PM when three police officers showed up claiming they had received a “noise complaint”. This seemed extremely unlikely to me — Fortnight was playing music just loud enough for the patrons of the bar sitting outside to hear, much less loud than the normal noise level outside on that block of downtown at night. Fortnight is a local bar that has vocally defended the Black Lives Matter movement and supported the movement in Providence to defund the police, and they have attested to being a frequent target of harassment by the police. Indeed, people from Fortnight and patrons told me that for the last few weeks Providence Police cars have been repeatedly driving past the bar w and turning on their sirens while passing with the purpose to harass, intimidate, and annoy patrons and workers and incidentally create a lot more noise than the music in question last night. I was also told that a Providence Police Officer yelled expletives out the window of their patrol car at a patron while driving by on July 17th at 8pm. The patron filled a police report and has received no response.
Upon arrival, three officers approached someone working at the bar. The first officer to speak to the worker was extremely belligerent and was yelling right in the workers face and refusing to stand farther away despite Covid-19 issues and repeated requests to do so. At this point someone working at the bar asked me to intervene. I noted that I was a Councilor, and was concerned about the presence of so many officers for such a minor complaint. After this a different officer spoke to the worker much more reasonably, said they had no intention of citing the bar and just wanted the music turned down. The bar staff then cooperated fully and turned the music off completely. However, minutes later 3 more police cars and four more officers arrived at the scene to respond, circling the bar in an act of intimidation — and proving that this had nothing to do with a noise complaint, as the bar had zero music on at all.
I am extremely frustrated by the Police Department’s response last night. It is clear to me that what I observed was an attempt to harass a small business for bravely supporting youth organizers and working alongside community leaders to defund the police. At a time when our small businesses are suffering, this seems particularly egregious. Further, I am disturbed that the Police officers on the scene were able to turn over body camera footage of our encounter last night, but the Providence Police Department has not yet released footage of the misconduct on the part of Sergeant Hanley.
I am committed to standing up on behalf of all small businesses in our community, particularly those who feel they are being targeted for constitutionally protected political speech.
Katherine Kerwin
Councilwoman-Ward 12
Providence City Council
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