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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Woman hospitalized after police interrupt labor march

On August 11, 2007, Alex Svoboda, 22-years old, was hospitalized after being arrested by North Providence Police. Svoboda was arrested while participating in a march organized by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a radical union founded over 100 years ago. Svoboda suffered a broken knee, and according to the Providence (R.I.) Journal, required corrective surgery at least twice. Demonstrators and police debate what occurred that Saturday morning. Part way through the march, North Providence police ordered the march onto the sidewalk. According to a press release from the Providence chapter of the IWW, the police moved to arrest Svoboda before the protesters could comply, twisting and breaking her leg in the wrong direction at the knee.

In a press conference following the incident, the police alleged Svoboda hit them with drumsticks and they acted in self defense. Svoboda is being charged with assaulting an officer, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace.

The march and picket were organized to draw attention to Jacky’s Galaxie. Allegedly, the Rhode Island chain does business with food distributor Dragonland Trading, which has been widely criticized for mistreating its workers. The march of roughly 35 people, which organizers did not obtain a permit for, primarily consisted of different chapters of Students for a Democratic Society and the IWW.

Recently, the lawyer for Jacky’s Galaxie admitted the company previously worked with Dragonland Trading, but has recently cut all ties.

The police department is conducting an internal investigation to determine if officers used excessive force, but many say this is not sufficient.

“I want to see those officers dismissed, immediately,” said Francesca Contreras, a member of the IWW and Providence SDS who was at the demonstration, in an email interview. “It is absolutely undeniable that the police used excessive force. These were four grown, built officers viciously attacking (Svoboda). Their actions were completely unwarranted.”

The IWW plans to hold an anti-police brutality event in the coming weeks in response to Svoboda’s treatment, and vows to continue working to support her and the workers at Dragonland Trading.

The North Providence Police Department did not respond to attempts at an interview.

However, according to the Providence Journal, Mayor Charles Lombardi stated his disbelief that Svoboda’s injuries “were caused by the town of North Providence,” but rather Svoboda may have fallen and broken her leg on her own.

Barton Parks, professor of Justice and Policy Studies, explained the government’s response.

“One can expect police departments, because they are political bureaucracies, to do everything in their power initially to focus blame on the victim and absolve themselves of any responsibility,” said Parks. “Considering the history of the police vis-a-vis labor organizations, one must expect every attempt to discredit people in unions if not the unions themselves.”

Others would disagree and contend the police were doing their job and maintaining order. These differing perspectives reflect a deeper debate regarding the role of police and power in society that has existed since the creation of centralized law enforcement.

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