On June 1st, Worcester police and tactical units instigated an attack on anti-racist protesters in yet another example of rampant police brutality. Following a protest at City Hall against the racist murder of George Floyd, police cornered a small march and filled the streets with enough pepper balls and smoke grenades to make it through the windows of nearby apartments. Nineteen protesters and on-lookers were wrongly arrested—after being tackled and kneeled on, and having their phones stomped on or kicked away by police attempting to destroy footage of the events. After being released, these 19 were arraigned on trumped-up charges.
Police violence and legal charges are one of many attacks on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the anti-racist movement, designed to bully and intimidate those who are already active as well as people considering getting organized. Across the country, hundreds of anti-racist activists are facing charges or have been imprisoned as a result of participating in the surge of protests over the summer.
Despite massive public outcry, Worcester’s Democrat-controlled City Council voted unanimously to increase the police budget by a quarter of a million dollars shortly after the attack—money which is desperately needed to address the issues workers face in the midst of the pandemic. At the same time, Worcester Public Schools underwent further budget cuts and mass layoffs. City Council has made it clear that its priorities are to uphold racist policing in the city and continue to repress the working class. We cannot look to capitalist politicians, Democrat or Republican, to solve this crisis because capitalism relies on the repression and exploitation of the working class, including people of color. The police are just one tool. However, we can, and must, fight for reforms including dropping the charges against protestors and onlookers, and slashing the bloated WPD budget!
Defending the anti-racist movement requires organized, collective action. Despite clear, live-streamed footage showing these violent and baseless arrests, the charges against those 19 protesters and bystanders still remain. A motion to dismiss the charges has been filed, and the first court hearing is scheduled for the morning of November 20th. We need to show up and support our rights to assemble, speak freely, and protest: all charges must be dropped for people arrested on June 1st. No protesters or bystanders should be tried for standing against police brutality! To drop the charges and fight for real change, we need to build consistent opposition to police brutality, repression of protesters, and systemic racism—and continue the fight beyond the November 20th hearing.
Update: some of the charges were dismissed following ISG’s picket on November 20th – but the fight isn’t over! Read our update for more details.
The Solidarity Campaign demands:
- Defend the Movement, Drop the Charges! Drop all charges against those arrested on June 1st.
- Cut the bloated WPD budget including the extra $250,000 allocated this year. Invest in the Worcester Public Schools and other social services as a step towards fully funding vital public services. Police out of Worcester Public Schools. Fund municipal broadband, including more funding for remote school access! Fund the WRTA to continue fare-free transit!
- For an organized solidarity campaign and coalition, leading to an organized Worcester anti-racist coalition. For democratic structures to discuss and debate strategy and tactics, including protest defense. Unions and other local organizations should get involved and mobilize their members and resources, including stewarding, financial, and legal aid.
Image Credit: Johnny Silvercloud via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0