video: Protester Says Officer Grabbed Her Breast at East Providence Forum

Friday, March 03, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team and Kate Nagle

A video taken of the arrest of Beth Murphy Ward at the Rhode Island Congressional delegation's community forum at East Providence High School on February 12 shows Ward claiming that an East Providence police officer grabbed her breast.

The video, posted by David Norton, shows the incident in detail. 

"I was there and witnessed the whole incident. I slowed down the video (courtesy of Steve Ahlquist) to show that the plained clothed officer groped Beth," said Norton. "The video is very viral and people are upset to learn that the officer seems to intentionally grope her. I just became the Communications Director for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats and one of the things we are trying to do is communicate injustice like this."

"I have come to realize that women in our community are often ignored or even blamed in situations like in this video," said Norton. "I have, unfortunately, had to block many males making sexist and even violent comments about the victim.  Most women are able to grasp what happened very quickly but the men take a lot longer and seem very resistant to conclude that the groper is in fact totally in the wrong."

Lawyer for Ward Weighs In

Ward's lawyer Jeanne Scott spoke with GoLocal on Thursday.

"I don't believe that they had probable cause to arrest [Ward]. We have free speech, and people speak out at public events all the time, I think that maybe there needs to be some training with our various communities' police,' said Scott. "We are going to have more of these kinds of people coming out who have never protested. The police need to be ready for this and maybe retrained on how to de-escalate situations -- there was an escalation here that didn't need to happen."

Scott said that the legal strategy for Ward for now is focused on responding to the arrest itself, and not the conduct of the arresting officers. 

"We're not doing anything until after her criminal case is done," said Scott. "Right now the focus is on handling the arrest."

Scott said she did not want to speak directly to the contents of the video on Thursday. 

"After we go to court, we'll say a lot more," said Scott. "But I don't believe there was probable cause to arrest her -- and I believe this situation could have been de-escalated."

A change.org petition was started to fire Detective Cpl. Michael T. Petow and charge him with sexual assault.

Calls and emails to East Providence Chief Christopher Parella after-hours were not responded to on Thursday. 

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