Tony the dancing cop is no more in Providence. Tony Lepore said he was fired for protesting a Dunkin’ Donuts worker who wrote #BlackLivesMatter on a fellow officer’s coffee cup in Rhode Island. Lepore, a retired officer and popular fixture in the city, was hired by the city annually to bring back his dancing routine while directing traffic during the holidays.
Tony the dancing cop held a small protest outside of the Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant to show support for his the officers who received the cup from the employee last month. Tony Lepore said that when he was asked to meet with Providence officials he was told that community groups were upset about the protest he organized and his services would no longer be needed, WJAR reports.
— WTOP (@WTOP) November 25, 2015
Tony Lepore, 68, was hired by the Providence Police Department in 1989. He worked a foot patrol in the city and decided to turn the boring chore of directing traffic during a busy time in the downtown area into something fun. Residents and visitors loved the dancing cop routine, so the lark that Lepore was not sure department brass would like became a daily occurrence. Lepore appeared first on the local news and then on national television shows, inspiring other police officers to give dancing on duty a try.
Tony said he has been a showman since he was a little boy and had once dreamed of going into the entertainment industry. He came of age during the 1960s and ultimately joined the military and was sent to Vietnam to fight the war. Upon his return, practicality trumped passion, and he needed to find a job. The police department proved a good fight for a man with military training.
Tony the dancing cop organized the Providence Dunkin’ Donuts protest just several days after a worker wrote the Black Lives Matter hashtag on the Rhode Island police officer’s coffee cup, MSN reports. As riots and protests against police raged in multiple cities across the country over the course of the past year, the Blue Lives Matter (#bluelivematter) hashtag was also created by folks who wanted to show their support for the men and women in blue.
Lepore said that he wanted to see the Dunkin’ Donuts employee fired for making the statement on the police officer’s coffee cup.
“I just want people out there to support their police department,” Lepore said. “I was a policeman for 17 years and I know how tough this job is.”
Providence Police Commissioner Steven Pare said Tony Lepore gave the inaccurate impression that he represented the position of the department when organizing the protest and making public statements calling for the termination of the Dunkin’ Donuts employee.
— Mike LaCrosse ABC6 (@MikeLaCrosse) November 25, 2015
“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,” police commissioner Pare said in a statement.
The retired Providence police officer said that he is upset the city is not taking into account all of the work he was done for the town over the years, including a copious amount of visits to schools to work with the children. Lepore said the reason he was fired is “very simple, politics.”
“I feel bad I’m not going to be there anymore. But I had a good run. I had a good run. 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,” Tony the dancing cop said.
— The_News_DIVA (@The_News_DIVA) November 25, 2015
Supporters of the popular local figure are comparing the Providence mayor to the Grinch over the Lepore firing. The dancing cop said he does not regret organizing the protest.
“I had a mission to make sure all police officers were treated like police officers, not like dirt,” Lepore said.
Tony the dancing cop plans to continue traveling to perform his routine, visit schools, and participate in parades — he just will no longer be doing it wearing a Providence Police Department patch.
What do you think about Tony the dancing cop getting fired for protesting the treatment of a fellow officer by a Black Lives Matter supporter at Dunkin’ Donuts?
[Image via Twitter]