The Independent Socialist Group interviewed one of those arrested during a Black Lives Matter protest in June. On the night of June 1st, heavily armed Worcester Police followed and antagonized a group of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in the Main South neighborhood, before indiscriminately attacking and arresting both protesters and bystanders. The Worcester Police Department and DA have leveled charges of disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, and failure to disperse from a riot against these youth in order to shut down and scare off the anti-racist movement that erupted this summer. Worcester Independent Socialist Group launched a solidarity campaign. The campaign is supported by the Pioneer Valley and Central MA Chapters of the Green-Rainbow Party, Worcester for a People’s Party, and DefundWPD.
What happened on the night you were arrested? Can you describe what was going on and what happened before, during, and after your arrest?
I was arrested while filming and live-streaming events in my own neighborhood. Many of us were drawn outside by the use of flashbangs and other loud noises resulting from police inciting violence against protestors. I was on the sidewalk pretty much the whole time, only crossing the street a couple of times during the hour or less that I was outside. The cops surprised me on the street corner, and when I ran I was tackled and scraped both my legs and hands. My phone flew out of my hand and landed face down. The screen broke and it was kicked to the side by another officer, making it harder to pick up any audio. The arresting officer tried to mock me and say “you threw that brick at me, it really hurt” and that I was under arrest for inciting a riot, even though I had video evidence that I didn’t incite a riot, nor did I throw anything.
We were arrested around 12:30 am and were not released until around 7. Almost everyone that was arrested was younger than 30 and had worried family and/or friends waiting at the police station for them. Many of us that were recording lost our phones on the street after the cops had kicked them away, stomped on them, taken them from us, etc. But WPD did not return them upon release, and instead, our friends had to comb the streets looking for these phones that held our proof of innocence—something the police clearly tried to take from us.
What are the implications of the charges against you?
Out of the 19 arrested, the vast majority were charged with disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, and failure to disperse from a riot. Many of us have had the disturbing/disorderly charges dropped as of recent but all of us are still facing other charges. Charging us directly criminalizes protest and filming the police. Clearly, we captured things the police didn’t want on video, and having those moments on video is what proves our innocence.
Nationally, cities are cracking down on Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters. How do you think this will affect the movement?
Arrests like these instill fear into protestors who aren’t arrested and discourage them from going out and protesting. Nobody wants criminal charges on their record, especially when you’re young and trying to get a stable job. Arrests like these also keep those who are willing to risk arrest on the streets at home. For example, I learned that if I was arrested again, I’d be put in jail for 90 days without bail. These charges and their consequences are an attack on the movement, but with more organization and centralized leadership, we can fight these charges and prevent them in the future.
What would you ask of our readers and the community to do to support those falsely arrested?
Picket, protest, keep making calls and sending emails, keep packing courtrooms, not just for us but for any similar cases, no matter where you’re located. When you turn a blind eye and stop fighting with us, you let the police get away with complete injustice, and as we’ve seen, allow the energy of the movement to die down. Fighting racism and capitalism as individuals is not going to work–we need to get organized. Join an organization and help build solidarity campaigns with arrested anti-racist protestors around the country!
Despite this repression, what do you see as the next steps for the Black Lives Matter movement?
The next step for BLM is to keep the momentum. A lot of people, especially wealthier liberals, assume that since Biden has been elected that BLM is now over just because Trump is out. Biden has used “police just have some bad apples” rhetoric on the national debate stage, and when BLM started under Obama/Biden, the national guard was still called, arrests were still made, and the same violence still occurred. Biden is one of the architects of mass incarceration, aka modern-day slavery. We cannot let the movement lose more steam than it already has. Those of us who are able must stay in the streets, even with colder weather in most places, even with rising COVID cases. This fight is nowhere near over because we changed our commander in chief from a man who wears white supremacy on his sleeve to a man who pretends to not be one.
What’s next for the campaign?
Like I’ve said, keep protesting and picketing, keep giving city officials hell. The police union is pressuring the District Attorney to press charges and deny evidence, so why can’t we, the people, apply the same pressure? Do not forget about what happened on June 1st, and do not stop fighting for the justice we have not received over six months later.
The Independent Socialist group urges community members to get involved in the solidarity campaign. If you’re an individual or part of an organization, get in contact with the Independent Socialist Group to find out how you can help with the campaign! Immediately, we are calling for people to call or email the Worcester District Attorney on Friday 12/18/2020. Get in touch for a sample script!