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Family and friends turn out to support Jonas Pierre at his bail hearing

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Family and friends of Jonas Pierre, who faces misdemeanor charges of threatening right-wing radio host John DePetro and has been held without bail at the ACI, gathered at the Garrahy Judicial Complex on Friday morning to hold signs and show support. Due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, Pierre’s mother and siblings were not allowed to be in the courtroom as Pierre’s lawyer, Shannah Kurland, petitioned the court to issue bail.

As the bus from the ACI approached the rear entrance of the courthouse, a line of police officers marched forward in a show of force to place themselves between the small group of supporters and the bus.


Attorney Kurland’s brief to the court suggested that the charges against Pierre are politically and racially motivated, and questioned the credibility of the complaining witness, John DePetro.

“It is at best disingenuous and at worst deceptive and corrupt for the Providence police to rely on a complaining witness who has a documented hostility toward and fascination with the defendant,” write Kurland in her brief. “Multiple statements demonstrate the complaining witness’s utter lack of credibility when it comes to Mr Pierre. On September 26, 2020, speaking over a sound system at a political rally at the State House, the complaining witness said, “We have a message for the protesters – that the next time they decide to go to Federal Hill some Trump supporters might be up there to kick their ass!” DePetro followed the call to violence by leading the crowd in a chant of, ‘Stay off the hill!'”

At the same September 26 rally, the complaining witness got even more graphic about the type of violence he advocates using against protesters. He told the crowd that when asked by a reporter what he would do if a Trump supporter ran over a protester on the highway, “I would politely ask him to back up and finish the job.”


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DePetro has claimed that he was joking when he made these comments

Kurland goes on to question the need for the large police response in apprehending Pierre at his home, saying that “[f]or the Providence police ‘elite’ undercover unit to roll up eight strong, in late model luxury cars with guns drawn, with a Major, a Captain, and a Sergeant on scene in order to execute an arrest warrant for a petty misdemeanor is unprecedented. One horrifying but possible explanation for this surreal operation? John DePetro is white. And Jonas Pierre is Black.”

DePetro’s legal complaint, suggested Kurland, has been a “ratings boom for his facebook-based media outlet.” DePetro has been “playing the victim and racking up seventy-one comments and fifty shares from people who know nothing about Mr. Pierre but have determined that he is a ‘terrorist.’ DePetro meanwhile builds his martyr persona, claiming that the ‘progressives… are attacking me because I exposed and destroyed their narrative of “peaceful protesters”‘ and that Mr Pierre ‘is a criminal, extremely violent and has been at protest[s] all summer,’ as if civic engagement by Black and brown youth is part and parcel of being ‘criminal’ and ‘extremely violent.'”

Attorney Kurland also had some words about the so-called Providence Purge, which appeared as a Facebook post of social media and was heavily promoted by DePetro on his radio show. DePetro advertised the Providence purge as “a collection of Antifa anarchist intent on complete destruction of the city including rioting, arson, animals sacrificed, and vicious acts of random violence.”

“Providence police needed someone to blame for the chilling specter of the ‘Providence Purge’ making the social media rounds for Halloween weekend,” wrote Kurland in her court brief, adding:

“Setting aside speculation that the ‘purge’ was actually created and promoted by complaining witness DePetro, the media frenzy surrounding the faux event provided a strong incentive for Providence police to find a ‘boogeyman’ to serve as their scapegoat for the debacle. Although probably dozens of people, if not more, had shared the post in one version or another, it does not appear that there was any related criminal activity that would allow Providence police to arrest anyone. No matter, they found their perfect opportunity in Jonas Pierre – a big guy with dark skin and a sharp tongue. – and the ideal partner in the complaining witness who accuses him. Mr Pierre was conveniently arrested on October 29 and arraigned the following day. By late afternoon, media reports were already proclaiming that the ‘man linked to [the] purge of Providence’ had been arrested for threatening John DePetro. And Major David Lapatin, head of the Detective Bureau of the Providence Police Department, confirmed to Channel 10, ‘As far as this big purge going through the City of Providence, it’s not happening,’ as reporter Kelly O’Niell tweeted, ‘after the man who posted a flyer of the debunked event was in court today.'”

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. atomicsteve@gmail.com