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End Cash Bail in Rhode Island

“I couldn’t believe it the next morning when I showed up to wait for him at court and the clerk informed me that he would need $1000 dollars in cash or he wouldn’t be able to leave that day. Dennis doesn’t have any prior convictions. He is a loving, caring family man. What’s more, since he hurt his back a couple years ago, he has been unable to work. I am the only one earning a paycheck and I only recently started my new job. I thought I was going to have to sell that engagement ring. I thought I was going to have to sell the car. I was scared, and all over something that someone said they saw. All over the words written on his sign while he was leaving an event calling out the police and the state for trying to hide crimes.”

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See also: Arrested for bearing speech, arms, or both?

On April 14th, my fiancée, Dennis Torres, took the dog and went to a solidarity action to mourn for Daunte Wright. BLM RI PAC hosted this at the State House in Providence. He went with his sister and a friend. They all felt very strongly about the lack of police accountability in murder after murder of unarmed Black people. They made signs to express their feelings about what they see as a white supremacist system providing impunity to those who steal Black lives while wearing a badge. I couldn’t go because I was at work. We were all checking in over text messages, and around 7pm he texted me to let me know the rally was almost over.

The next I heard from him, he was in jail. It was three hours later. He kept apologizing to me, he was distraught. He said the police arrested him because they had received a tip that he had an ‘unlicensed gun’ on him. He had been walking to his car when a dozen police officers surrounded and apprehended him. Many weren’t wearing masks. They took his sign and our dog. They detained him and told him he was not going to get out of jail for a while. He didn’t know what was going to happen but he was obviously in fear that I was going to be angry with him. I told him not to worry. I told him that I loved him and was never going to take that ring off my finger.

I couldn’t believe it the next morning when I showed up to wait for him at court and the clerk informed me that he would need $1000 dollars in cash or he wouldn’t be able to leave that day. Dennis doesn’t have any prior convictions. He is a loving, caring family man. What’s more, since he hurt his back a couple years ago, he has been unable to work. I am the only one earning a paycheck and I only recently started my new job. I thought I was going to have to sell that engagement ring. I thought I was going to have to sell the car. I was scared, and all over something that someone said they saw. All over the words written on his sign while he was leaving an event calling out the police and the state for trying to hide crimes.

Luckily, we had help. Community members that night were there to get his dog and get his car so his sister and friend could get home. A few different organizations helped us secure a good lawyer and post the enormous amount of cash we needed for bail. People came and sat with me until he was let out and brought coffee and snacks while we waited. When Dennis finally walked out, we asked what we owed them – they told us it was mutual aid and they did it because it was the right thing to do. Just like Dennis felt when he decided to go out to the rally at the state house. To go put his sign up and put himself in harm’s way, with all those police around, and use his voice to say ‘no more killing.’ That’s why I want to share my story with everyone I can. Anyone out there who is afraid of being singled out at one of these demonstrations – please don’t be. Be brave like my fiancée, the movement needs you. Black lives need you to be brave and stand up.

About the Author

Jesica Hayhurst is a mother of three who lives in Pawtucket. She may be reached for comment through AmnestyPVD@gmail.com