PROVIDENCE — A very small group of protesters gathered outside of the Garrahy Judicial Complex on Friday, demanding freedom for the man behind the “Purge of Providence" flyer that sparked panic and fear here around Halloween. But the real drama played out inside, when his lawyer railed to the judge about the city being “a police state.”
Jonas Pierre, 28, is not facing any charges associated with the flyer. He was arrested Oct. 29 for disorderly conduct and for allegedly threatening to kill conservative radio talk show host John DePetro during an anti-police demonstration last month.
Pierre was also charged with a felony at the time, because he was carrying a box cutter and a BB gun that looked like a Glock, police said, even though he is prohibited from carrying any firearm because of a previous conviction of felony assault with a dangerous weapon. He was out on bail from misdemeanor charges stemming from a different protest in July when he was arrested in October, and was ordered held without bail as a violator of his previous bail conditions.
Pierre’s lawyer, Shannah Kurland of Providence, was herself arrested during another protest in October, for allegedly spitting at Cranston police officers. The Supreme Court Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which investigates allegations of misconduct and disciplinary complaints against lawyers in Rhode Island, will review her case.
Kurland stood with demonstrators outside the courthouse as the bus from the Adult Correctional Institutions drove up Friday morning, carrying Pierre. The demonstrators chanted anti-police slogans and “Free Jonas” as police and sheriffs barred them from the driveway.
Supporters of Jonas Pierre, the man behind the “Purge of Providence” flyer, called for his freedom as he was brought in on a prison bus today. He is being held as a bail violator on charges of carrying a weapon and threatening radio host John Depetro at a protest. pic.twitter.com/gLGfBmJpbv— Amanda Milkovits (@AmandaMilkovits) November 6, 2020
Inside the courtroom, Kurland tried to persuade District Court Magistrate Joseph Ippolito Jr. to modify bail so Pierre could be released, saying the case against him was weak. Ippolito disagreed, pointing out that Pierre had been arrested while out on bail from July, and there was probably cause to bring the cases to a trial.
“When out on bail, you make a promise to keep the peace, and if that’s violated, it’s a broken promise to the court,” Ippolito said.
“Your honor, I don’t want to beg, but my city has become a police state. Someone has to stand up to them,” Kurland said. “What [the police] are doing to young people -- they are taking the Constitution and using it for toilet paper.”
Kurland blamed DePetro for the unrest, calling him an “an angry violent man” who live-streamed Pierre and other protesters during the demonstrations. She called it “convenient” that DePetro complained about being threatened just as the Providence police were trying to determine whether the “Purge of Providence” flyer represented a real threat.
Pierre had posted the flyer twice on his Facebook page, and it eventually spread throughout social media in late October. DePetro focused on the flyer repeatedly during his show.
Ippolito ordered Pierre to remain held without bail. Kurland stormed out, swearing under her breath. “I’m [expletive] done,” she said, loudly enough for the courtroom to hear, as she walked out.
Pierre’s hearing is set for Nov. 18 — the day before Kurland herself appears in court to be arraigned.