Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs said on air Thursday that a guard was acting “within his rights” when he allegedly drove through ICE protesters blocking the entrance to a Rhode Island detention center’s parking lot.
Dobbs, whose opinions President Trump frequently echoes, said the demonstrators were “harassing” the workers of Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., on Wednesday and speculated that they may have committed assault by trying to stop the truck. The facility is a private prison with which the Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts to house immigration detainees.
“I know that it must just gladden your heart to see a bunch of demonstrators at a Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility blocking the path of a guard and then complaining about the fact that he sought to do what is within his rights, which is to proceed to park his vehicle and go to work,” Dobbs told former acting ICE director Tom Homan on “Lou Dobbs Tonight."
Homan responded that people have been protesting ICE facilities nationwide and “it makes you wonder if they even got a job.”
“ICE employees — especially our contractors that run our facilities for us — they’re on edge, Lou,” Homan said. “And I don’t know what happened in this incident, but our employees are on edge.”
Dobbs has a long history of making provocative comments and enjoys a close relationship with Trump, whom he speaks with every day some weeks, The Washington Post previously reported. In April, Dobbs alleged that “radical Dems, the deep state and the national left-wing media have tried to subvert and overthrow the president of the United States.”
Dobbs has been particularly forceful on immigration, The Post previously reported. He falsely said in 2003 that “illegal aliens” constituted one-third of the total prison population. Two years later, Dobbs said 7,000 people with leprosy had immigrated here in three years — when that number covered 30 years.
“He was Trump before Trump,” Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former White House chief strategist and the former editor of the right-wing site Breitbart News, previously said of Dobbs. “He has always sort of epitomized the intellectual foundation of the Trump movement on trade and immigration, even if he doesn’t get enough attention. He was more Breitbart than Breitbart, going back years.”
The Wyatt Detention Facility protesters from Never Again Action, a Jewish activist group, were sitting on the ground in a line when video shows a black pickup truck swerved toward them. The demonstrators yelled, and some stood up and banged on the hood of the truck.
The driver laid on the horn and stopped briefly before driving through the protesters. Protest organizers said the truck struck several people and some were treated at a hospital. None of the demonstrators reported serious injuries.
“It was terrifying because we didn’t know what exactly his intention was,” Amy Anthony, a spokeswoman for Never Again Action, previously told The Post. “It certainly appeared he was trying to hit us.”
The detention facility said Friday that the driver was Capt. Thomas Woodworth, a correctional officer at the facility. Woodworth is on administrative leave while the center conducts an administrative review, Chris Hunter, a spokesman for the prison, said in a statement.
The Rhode Island attorney general’s office and the Rhode Island State Police are also investigating the incident, the attorney general’s office said in a statement. Maj. Craig Horton of the Central Falls Police Department told The Post his agency is assisting.
“Once we have a full understanding of the relevant facts, we will determine how to proceed,” the attorney general’s office said in the statement. “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.”
The confrontation took place during a wave of protests around the country by Jewish groups against ICE, including a demonstration that shut down part of Manhattan’s West Side Highway on Saturday, leading police to arrest nearly 100 protesters.
Never Again Action, which ties its activism to preventing atrocities such as like the Holocaust from occurring, arrived at the prison about 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Wyatt Detention Facility, which describes itself as “a quasi-public corporation,” is operated by the Central Falls Detention Facility Corp. and is overseen by a board appointed by the mayor of Central Falls, about seven miles north of Providence.
About 30 protesters first shut down the main entrance to the prison by linking arms and sitting on the ground, Anthony said. About 9 p.m., they moved to block the driveways into the staff parking lot. About 45 minutes later, the black pickup showed up.
Before the truck could get through to the parking lot, protesters gathered on the other side of the gate, shouting “Shame!” Moments later, other guards from the prison rushed across the street to surround the protesters and then fired pepper spray.
After the demonstrators fled the pepper spray, the driver parked in the lot and then walked into the prison, Anthony said.