Tensions between police and Black Lives Matter activists are at an all-time high thanks to a record high number of police shootings this year. As a result, most police departments are hyper-aware of how they interact with activists and the media. This includes the Providence police department in Rhode Island, where 68-year-old Tony Lepore—Providence's famous "dancing cop"—was fired for speaking out against Black Lives Matter.
Last month, after a Dunkin' Donuts employee wrote "#blacklivesmatter" on a police officer's coffee cup, Lepore organized a protest outside the establishment. According to the AP, Lepore said he wanted to see that employee fired. "I had a mission to make sure all police officers were treated like police officers, not like dirt," he said.
Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré was not impressed. Lepore was fired Tuesday thanks to his statements, which Paré deemed reprehensible. "Recent statements made by Mr. Lepore gave the inaccurate impression that he represented the position of the Providence Police Department," Paré said in an email statement to the Providence Journal. "Mr. 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."
Lepore called his firing a matter of "very simple politics" and called the Police Commissioner and Police Chief "political puppets." He started directing holiday traffic downtown in 1984, retired from the force in 1989, and the city has hired him for the holiday season every year since. "I had a good run," he said. "I'm known all over the country, but I wasn't doing it for myself. I was doing it for the town. It gave the town so much publicity. No one knew where Rhode Island was in 1984."
Never mind the fact that Rhode Island was one of the 13 original colonies and every middle schooler in the United States was forced to memorize its position on a map. Nope, Rhode Island was definitely a mystery until Tony Lepore arrived to shuffle his feet and tweet aggressively at passersby.