The ACLU of Rhode Island released the following statement today in response to reports of police actions yesterday at William E. Tolman Senior High School (VIDEO) and during the resulting protests this morning in Pawtucket:

“The ACLU of Rhode Island is very concerned that the alleged shouting and swearing of one student cascaded into the physical takedown and arrest of two students in school, the arrest of at least eight other individuals, and the pepper spraying of a number of youth.

“While we understand that the facts revolving around the initial incident and the resulting protests are still being sorted out, we are very concerned that the presence of law enforcement at the school may have exacerbated rather than ameliorated a behavioral issue that could otherwise have been handled in other ways.

“We are also deeply troubled by the possibility that peaceful protesters may have been pepper sprayed or otherwise had their rights impinged due to the overly broad reaction of the Pawtucket Police to behavior of a few individuals.

“We encourage any student or protester who feels their rights have been violated to contact the ACLU. We will continue to closely monitor the situation. In the meantime, we also call upon city and school officials to undertake a thorough investigation of the police actions during this incident, and to examine the propriety of school resource officer use of force standards that are in place at Pawtucket schools.”

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