RI’s Fired Dancing Cop Finds Himself at Intersection of Race Debate

1 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Black Lives Matter protesters target dancing cop’s new gig.

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – More than two dozen protesters attended a scheduled appearance of a retired Providence police officer known as the “Dancing Cop,” but the ex-officer himself did not show. The retired cop who annually cut a rug while directing Rhode Island traffic — until Providence cut ties with him when he protested a Black Lives Matter supporter — has a new dance partner on the other side of town.

Last month, after a Dunkin’ Donuts wrote “#blacklivesmatter” on a police officer’s coffee cup, Tony Lepore, Providence’s infamous dancing cop, who has directed holiday traffic in the city since 1984, organized a protest.For more than 30 years, Rhode Island’s nationally-famous Dancing Cop, Tony Lepore, brought smiles to the streets of downtown Providence every holiday season as he directed traffic with shimmies, boogies and spins. Tony Lepore, 68, is taking his holiday dance act to East Providence from Dec. 10 to Dec. 24, the cavorting cop said during an appearance Sunday on “Fox & Friends.” “And I’ll always on the 24th wear my Santa hat and pass out candy canes to the kids,” said Lepore, who’s been dancing in the streets since 1984. In a state known for oddities like coffee-syrup in milk and a giant blue termite along the side of Interstate 95, this holiday story is a microcosm of both the state’s penchant for generating curious news and the broader issue of race and policing embroiling communities around the country. Following Lepore’s protest, Providence officials told him they were letting him go from his decades-long gig directing holiday traffic with exaggerated dance moves.

Lepore was not authorized to speak on behalf of the Providence Police Department and his actions were, in my judgment, a disservice to the department and to members of the Providence community,” Providence Police Chief Stephen Pare said in a statement. “Black Lives Matter is an organization that has some individuals – some individuals – that advocate harm to police officers,” Lepore said. “Since we picketed and got a written apology from the Dunkin’ Donuts’ owner. . . . we haven’t had one incident in Rhode Island.” A favorite at parades and schools, the Dancing Cop until now had been considered a pleasant if not innocuous figure appearing regularly on the local news whenever his annual gig with the city of Providence approached each December. He has been hired by the city each year since then to direct traffic downtown during the holiday season. “I had a mission to make sure all police officers were treated like police officers, not like dirt,” Lepore said of last month’s protest, when he called for the Dunkin’ Donuts worker to be fired.

According to the Associated Press, he characterized his own firing as “very simple politics.” “I feel bad I’m not going to be there anymore,” Lepore told the AP. “But I had a good run. There was a small outcry over this, with some people claiming that Lepore was being discriminated against because of his politics, but let’s face it: Writing on Facebook, Capobianco explained that when she noticed that Lepore was available for the holidays, she thought, “Hey, we should get him for a few days here during the holidays, families would like that.” What exactly Rose made happen is in dispute. She says Rose, “made it happen” by putting the hiring of Lepore on the City Council docket for Tuesday evening’s meeting, and calling Lepore to see if hiring him for the season was an option. “I don’t know why [Lepore] has announced to [the] media [that] it’s a done deal when it’s on the docket for a vote,” she wrote. As for the Carousel appearance, Capobianco said that as Rose spoke with Lepore, he either “asked him about [the] Carousel or put him in touch with someone at Carousel.” Ironically, one of the sponsors of the Carousel Tree Lighting is Dunkin’ Donuts. After the crowd of 30 residents voiced their concerns to reporters who showed up to report on the event, the tree lighting went on without much fanfare.

Lepore wrote on Facebook that Mayor Rose called him about the protests being planned by “various organizations affiliated with Black Lives Matter.” Apparently, Rose was concerned that a protest would ruin an event that was “supposed to be a festive holiday experience for children and their families.” Lepore wrote, “because of my concern for the children’s safety, I have decided to cancel. All Rose ever did, apparently, was put the matter on the agenda on Capobianco’s behalf. “As for me being a racist,” he wrote, “there is nothing further from the truth. Aside from the ignorant and expected responses of “All Lives Matter” there were comments made about black fathers being deadbeats, black mothers being on welfare, and black on black crime. Darker still were the comments that bordered on violent, as commenters spoke of bringing weapons to confront protesters, saying things like, “Carry arms then.

Little pistol… lots of damage” and “lol between me and you I got a .44 mag lmao.” Lepore was right in his belief that his appearance might make children and families unsafe.

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