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Arrested for bearing speech, arms, or both?

“When they ganged up on me it was like they wanted to punish me for trying to speak up. Like revenge for people calling out police brutality. Like anything would have been pretext to nab me. Someone saying they saw something on me was all they needed. My sister told me later that they told her I had previous gun convictions – but that’s not true. They made up stories to fit what they wanted to happen. It’s sad – I could have ended up dead. Over rumors!”

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See also: End Cash Bail in Rhode Island

A few days ago, I heard that another Minnesota police officer shot a young Black man at a traffic stop over unpaid tickets. A lot of people I know were shocked, scared. Like, another one? How many times can police just take a life and expect to get away with it? I went to the protest in Providence to stop another Derek Chauvin, another Daunte Wright. I’m only one person, but I know throughout the country people are showing up to stop this violence. Everyone is demanding we disarm the police in order to protect Black life.

I knew it might get crazy. When we rolled up, there were all kinds of police around. I thought about what was on my sign, and I thought it might make me a target. I’m Puerto Rican and Hawaiian, sometimes people look at me, you know? But it was the right thing to do so I took courage. I didn’t think the police would mess with me so much as maybe neonazis from Boston.

The arrest was ugly. I’ve never been thrown in a squad car by a dozen cops before. They said I had an unlicensed gun – I can’t really comment but I wouldn’t carry a concealed weapon without a permit. They wouldn’t listen to me. They told me I was going to be held a long time. I felt like they were trying to scare me. No lie, it kind of worked. They held me for 17 hours without water or food. I’m on a prescription but didn’t have it in my cell. I asked them for it and they refused. Thinking about being without medication or food for days gave me anxiety. Like short of breath, desperate. Then they divulged that information in court the next morning like I was unstable.

When I went to court, there was someone there to stand with me. A criminal lawyer for the felony charge. I didn’t know who got her but she made sure the judge allowed bail. Then he told me how much – I almost fainted. I’ve been out of work since before Covid. Me and my fiancée make it but it’s not easy. My new lawyer said a group would post it but I didn’t really believe her. Then a couple hours later, they handed me my plastic bag with my things. Told me my fiancée was outside and I was free to go until trial. 

I’m sure the things written on my sign weren’t easy for cops to read. Maybe some of them would never hurt anybody. You know, like it’s not every officer in Providence that beat up Rishod Gore or chase after kids on ATVs. But nobody should have authority to take a life with a heart full of hate. So I put what I did on my sign. When they ganged up on me it was like they wanted to punish me for trying to speak up. Like revenge for people calling out police brutality. Like anything would have been pretext to nab me. Someone saying they saw something on me was all they needed. My sister told me later that they told her I had previous gun convictions – but that’s not true. They made up stories to fit what they wanted to happen. It’s sad – I could have ended up dead. Over rumors! I have to share this not so you think I’m innocent or whatever, but because it could happen to anyone. Until we change things, police can find a pretext to arrest or hurt you. Enough is enough!

About the Author

Dennis Torres, Jr. lives in Pawtucket with his fiancée and his dog. He may be reached for comment through AmnestyPVD@gmail.com