Civil Rights

A deeper look at the case against Jonas Pierre

Despite the so-called Providence Purge not being included in the arrest report or apparently being related to any of the charges brought against Pierre, it was featured prominently in the sensationalized media coverage of Pierre’s arrest… There is no indication that Pierre created the flyer, and dozens, perhaps hundreds of people, have shared it.
Photo for A deeper look at the case against Jonas Pierre

Published on November 6, 2020
By Steve Ahlquist

On July 23 the on again, off again rally to support the Providence Police Department was back on, despite Facebook notifications that the event had been cancelled. By the time Uprise reporters got to the event outside the Providence Public Safety Complex it was mostly over and two counter protesters, Najeli Rodriguez and Jonas Pierre, had been arrested. On the street outside the complex could be seen bits of broken plastic, what Uprise soon learned was the remains of a protective helmet worn by Pierre, shattered by police during his arrest.

A person at the scene shared this video with Uprise:

There were maybe two dozen people at the scene counter protesting the pro-police event. Twice that number of police officers formed a protective line between protesters and counter protesters, but that line was porous, witnesses told Uprise. Pro-police protesters were allowed to cross the line at will. Counter protesters who attempted to cross the line were stopped.

Exactly what happened to spark the arrests is unclear, but during the resulting melee, police grabbed Pierre, threw him to the ground and tackled him. In the process of arresting him Pierre received a concussion and “chest wall injuries.” Pierre was charged with three misdemeanors, including disorderly conduct.

It is important to revisit this arrest because Pierre, a 28-year old Black man, was arrested again, outside his home, on October 29 by a large group of police officers and charged with disorderly conduct and possession of a BB gun.

From the arrest report:

“On 10/29/2020 members of the Providence Police Department’s Organized Crime and Intelligence Bureau received information that a subject Jonas Pierre DOB 04/14/1992 was residing at [address redacted] and has an active arrest warrant out of Providence Police Department for disorderly conduct. Detectives set up surveillance in the area of [street redacted] and approximately 1320 hours, Detectives observed Pierre exit the rear door of [address redacted] with a white female identified as Katie Hollenbeck DOB 1/9/95. Police approach Pierre, identify themselves as police with their badges exposed. At which point Pierre raised his left hand keeping his right hand inside his front hooded sweatshirt stating, “I have a BB gun inside my jacket” while police drew there department issued firearm. Detective then were able to place Pierre into custody without further incident. Simultaneously Detective Desmarais located and seized a black Glock 19 BB gun serial number GUW019 from Pierre’s front hooded sweatshirt.

Pierre’s roommate Robert F. Proctor DOB 12/19/1992 exited the residence while Pierre was taken into custody. Proctor spoke to police and signed consent to search form for his third floor apartment. Proctor pointed to the room off the kitchen stated that was Pierre’s room. Police observed a knife and a rifle holster hanging on the wall. Major Correia, Capt. O’Hara and, Sgt. Ludovici were on scene.”

The disorderly charges are related to the allegations that Pierre threatened the life of right-wing radio host John DePetro during a peaceful October 23 protest that took place on and about Federal Hill, according to the arrest report.

In the report, DePetro identifies himself as a “private news reporter” live streaming the protest. DePetro was accompanied by four “security guards”Zack Pickering and Jayden Silva of Cranston, Dolores Bastone and Louie Richie:

From the arrest report:

“On Saturday, October 24, 2020 Detective Guerra met with John DePetro (DOB 06/19/1964) at 325 Washington Street within the Detective Bureau of Central Station. Mr. DePetro responded to the Detective Bureau to meet with Detective Guerra to report threats that were made to him during the “Justice for Jaylon! No Justice No Peace” protest on 10/23/2020 that commenced at 1900 hours in the Classical High School parking lot located at 770 Westminster Street.

Mr. DePetro stated that he was a private news reporter that would live stream the protest events. Mr. DePetro stated during this protest he was accompanied by four security guards that maintain a presence around him for his safety so he could focus on reporting. Mr. DePetro identified these security guards as being Jayden Silva, Zack Pickering, Doloris Bastone and Louie Richie. Mr. DePetro stated as the protest was going to begin he was alerted by Mr. Richie that he observed a guy in red staring directly at him. When Mr. DePetro was alerted by Mr. Richie in regards to this observation he stated he believed this sounded like a subject he has had previous interactions with during protest events but was unable to look at this point because he was reporting.

When the protest began shortly after 1900 hours, Mr. DePetro then observed the subject Mr. Richie was referring to riding a bicycle to the left of him while he was walking on Westminster Street. While this subject was operating the bicycle on Mr. DePetro’s left side he was approximately ten to fifteen feet away from him. This subject then yelled “DePetro I’m going to fucking kill you!” Mr. DePetro stated after hearing this subject yell his name specifically as well as the combined threat he recognized this voice to be the same subject he has encountered at previous protest events and looked in his direction. When Mr. DePetro looked towards this subject, the suspect then pointed directly at Mr. DePetro and again stated I’m going to fucking kill you!” While this subject made this statement directly at Mr. DePetro he motioned across his throat that simulated him cutting it. Mr. DePetro stated that he felt threatened and disturbed by this subject’s threat and felt he was capable of carrying it out based on his aggressive demeanor during this incident and past encounters. Mr. DePetro stated that he also observed his four security guards who were present to be disturbed by this subjects threatening behavior. Following these threats Mr. DePetro stated he continued to report but was cautious and tried to remain aware as to where this subject as he feared he may attempt to assault him. Mr. DePetro stated that this subject continued to follow him throughout the evening and yelled toward Mr. DePetro that he was a racist and attempted to get the other protesters attention to go against Mr. DePetro.

Mr. DePetro stated that starting in June following the June 2, 2020 riots in Providence he encountered this same subject that made the threats towards him on 10/23/20. Mr. DePetro stated that he observed this subject at a rally at the statehouse on 06/03/2020 and later observed him on a Channel 12 news broadcast interview. Mr. DePetro stated when this subject was interviewed by Channel 12 news he provided the name Jona Pierce. Mr. DePetro stated he continued to see who he now believed was Mr. Pierce at various protests. Mr. DePetro stated that he observed an online video of Mr. Pierce being arrested during the July 23, 2020 protest in front of central station where he was in possession of knives. Mr. DePetro located a Channel 10 news article that reported the arrest of Jonas Pierre. At this time, Mr. DePetro conducted a search on Facebook for Jonas Pierre and located the Facebook Page Jonah Pierre. Upon viewing this page Mr. DePetro stated that Jona Pierce, Jonas Pierre and Jonah Pierre are the same subject and is the subject responsible for threatening him on 10/23/20. Mr. DePetro was presented with the Jonah Pierre Facebook Page that he provided to Detective Guerra and he identified it as being the same page and subject that threatened him on 10/23/20. Detective Guerra then provided Mr. DePetro with a single photograph that was obtained through the Aegis Reporting System Database of Jonas Pierre (DOB 04/14/1992). Mr. DePetro identified this photograph as being the same subject depicted in the Facebook profile and the same subject who threatened him on 10/23/20.

Mr. DePetro stated that he wished to pursue charges against Mr. Pierre for the threats made directly towards him. Mr. DePetro provided Detective Guerra with clips from his live broadcast that captures Mr. Pierre yelling at him while he was reporting. Mr. DePetro also provided an image from the Channel 12 broadcast of “Jona Pierce” aka Jonas Pierre.

Based on Mr. DePetro’s statement and identification, Detective Guerra sought an arrest warrant for Mr. Pierre for one count of Disorderly Conduct in violation of 11-45-1 of RIGL which was later signed.”

After his arrest Pierre was held for 24 hours without access to an attorney, and when he appeared before District Court Judge Christine Jabour, lawyers representing the City of Providence demanded he be held for at least ten days without possibility of bail. Pierre had been allowed access to his attorney, Shannah Kurland, for all of five minutes at this point.

Though there is no mention of it in the arrest report, Pierre had shared a photo on his Facebook page about the so-called “Providence Purge.” Pierre’s photo had maybe three likes at the time of his arrest. Perhaps responding to speculation that Pierre had been planning the Purge, when police arrested Pierre they demanded to know about explosives; whether Pierre had any and where they were.

Despite the so-called Providence Purge not being included in the arrest report or apparently being related to any of the charges brought against Pierre, it was featured prominently in the sensationalized media coverage of Pierre’s arrest. After his arrest, many news outlets implied that Pierre had created or promoted the flyer, and was organizing some sort of violent event in Providence. (See here, here and here) There is no indication that Pierre created the flyer, and dozens, perhaps hundreds of people, have shared it.

One of the people sharing the flyer widely on social media and apparently promoting the fake event was right-wing radio host John DePetro. For a solid week DePetro sold the purge to his audience as a terrifying event. Among DePetro’s claims was that protestors were going to sacrifice animals, worship Satan, and generally terrorize the City of Providence during the Halloween weekend. None of this happened, of course, despite DePetro driving throughout downtown Providence looking for any evidence of trouble on October 29.

Instead of violence, there was public service. A group of people in Burnside Park near Kennedy Plaza held a Purge Your Cupboards event, to feed people in need downtown. DePetro ignored this group and did not report on their efforts.

DePetro has seemingly promoted violence before. At a Trump rally he emceed on September 26, DePetro suggested backing up and finishing the job if one were to run over a protester on the highway. He also suggested that protesters marching on Federal Hill might be beat up for exercising their first amendment rights. In response to criticisms for these comments, DePetro claims he was joking.

On October 23, during the protest that resulted in the charges against Pierre, Providence Police in full riot gear prevented protesters from marching onto Atwells Avenue on Federal Hill. Later, a white pickup truck menaced protesters on Broadway.

Jonas Pierre will be in court on November 6 for a status hearing.

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