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Nov 24, 9:54 PM EST

Providence's dancing cop says he was fired over protest

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Providence's famous dancing cop said he was fired Tuesday from directing holiday traffic for organizing a protest last month against a Dunkin' Donuts worker who wrote "#blacklivesmatter" on another police officer's coffee cup in Rhode Island.

Tony Lepore had led a small protest outside the coffee shop in support of the officer.

Lepore said he met with police officials, where he was told that community groups were upset about the protest and he wouldn't be rehired.

The 68-year-old retired from the Providence Police Department in 1989 and was then hired by the city to direct downtown traffic each holiday season. Commuters know him for his dance moves that's he's been perfecting since 1984. He's appeared on national television shows.

Lepore organized a protest outside a Providence Dunkin' Donuts days after a worker there wrote the hashtag on another officer's cup. He said he wanted to see that employee fired.

"I just want people out there to support their police department," Lepore had told WLNE-TV. "I was a policeman for 17 years and I know how tough this job is."

Police Commissioner Steven Pare said Lepore gave the inaccurate impression that he represented the position of the Providence Police Department during the protest and in public statements about it.

"Mr. Lepore was not authorized to speak on behalf of the Providence Police Department and his actions were, in my judgment, a disservice to the department and to members of the Providence community," he said in a statement.

Lepore said he's upset because the city isn't taking all of the work he has done for Providence over the years into account, including countless visits to schools.

He called it "very simple politics."

"I feel bad I'm not going to be there anymore," he said. "But I had a good run. I had a good run. I'm known all over the country, but I wasn't doing it for myself. I was doing it for the town. It gave the town so much publicity. No one knew where Rhode Island was in 1984."

Lepore said his supporters are comparing the mayor to the Grinch. He doesn't regret organizing the protest.

"I had a mission to make sure all police officers were treated like police officers, not like dirt," he said.

Lepore plans to continue traveling as a performer, visiting schools and going to parades.

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