The “Dancing Cop” of Providence will have to hang up his dancing shoes this holiday season. Tony Lepore, the fancy-footed police officer who directs traffic there, was fired last month, and now a neighboring city has booted him from a planned holiday performance on their streets.
And now, that Dancing Cop, Tony Lepore, said he’s working with his lawyer to figure out who he can sue — in addition to the city of Providence — for defamation of character, the Associated Press reported.
“They’re trying to say I’m a racist,” Lepore said.
He was initially fired by officials for holding a protest outside a Dunkin’ Donuts after word that an employee there wrote #BlackLivesMatter on a fellow officer’s coffee cop. Since then, Tony hasn’t exactly helped his case by speaking out against the movement.
The Dancing Cop retired from the Providence Police Department in 1989 but has boogied on the city’s streets since 1984, turning the rather dull work of directing traffic into something fun. Eventually, Lepore became something of a holiday tradition, but this year’s moves were put on hold when officials told him he’d danced his last.
According to the Providence Journal, the Dancing Cop didn’t just arrange a boycott outside Dunkin Donuts, he also made some controversial remarks about the Black Lives Matter movement and runs a Facebook page called “Citizens4Police.” On that page, Tony wrote that “Police Officers are under attack by the Black Lives Matters Movement.”
Lepore contends that his actions are an attempt to stand up for police, he told WPRI.
“I’m a true blue, and I bleed blue. And that’s it. A lot of men would’ve never done what I did.”
After his firing, neighboring East Providence still wanted to have the Dancing Cop perform in their town over the holiday season. When Mayor Thomas Rose got word that he’d been canned, he called to offer him a job. In the days afterward, city residents and councilors, and even cops protested, his performance. Some people even held a protest at their annual tree lighting ceremony.
On Tuesday night, councilors voted to remove the Dancing Cop’s holiday act from their streets without further explanation. Rose offered the only supporting vote.
Tony isn’t taking the decision sitting down. On a local radio show, he traded barbs with the spokesman for Black Lives Matter in New England, telling him that “you people are racists. Why don’t you go into the ghetto and help those people. They are killing each other.” He added that the organization doesn’t represent black people, but their own agenda.
He’s also peeved because the firing and subsequent cancellation is hurting his Dancing Cop business, according to NBC 10 News.
“I need this to supplement my pension so I can live comfortably. I made this company because I wanted to do this for the children and I love doing it. I love doing what I do and I love the notoriety, to tell you the truth. Not this notoriety.”
He and his wife both reject accusations that he’s a racist. Donna Lepore said during the radio interview that she and her husband “have many black friends… I’ve been married to him for almost 32 years, can tell you from the bottom of my heart that he’s not racist. My husband loves everybody.”
Longtime friend and Providence NAACP President Jim Vincent seems to reiterate that fact because he’s surprised at Tony’s comments.
“He would be the last person I would think that would cause harm and division in the community, which is basically what he did. We don’t need anything to make things worse. He made things worse. He ended up being divisive, maybe unintentionally.”
As the relationship between police and their communities have been strained across American cities, Vincent said people in Providence have tried to make sure their state doesn’t become the next Ferguson. There has been no violence in there, but plenty of tension.
[Image via YouTube]