By Nicholas Wurst
On Friday January 15, Worcester Independent Socialist Group (ISG) organized a second round of actions in defense of the anti-racist protestors arrested last June. The protest in June was demanding justice for George Floyd. Friday’s actions were organized to coincide with a court hearing for nine of the arrested protestors and bystanders.
The solidarity campaign organized a picket across from the courthouse with members of Worcester ISG, the Central Mass Green Rainbow Party, and Worcester for a Peoples Party in attendance. Activists chanted “Drop the Charges!” and “Black Lives Matter!”, while holding signs calling out the Worcester Police Department’s racism and repression of civil rights. Many of the people who walked or drove by expressed their support and took informational leaflets about how to support the campaign and join future actions.
The campaign also organized supporters to pack the virtual courtroom, displaying a solidarity message as their Zoom profile photo. There were nearly 75 people on the call. Unfortunately, right-wing trolls hijacked the courtroom proceedings in a coordinated attack, using slurs and obscene photos and videos. Surprisingly, the court had no measures in place to protect against trolls, such as auto-mute or locking the ability to screen-share. As a result, the Zoom meeting was ended, security measures were implemented, and the court session started up again after half-an-hour. The solidarity campaign condemns the right-wing attack on our campaign. The local justice system, now gone virtual due to the pandemic, is already non-transparent. Details for how to attend public proceedings are announced at the last minute, not publicized at all, and frequently changed at the last minute. Right-wing attacks like this must not be used as an excuse to further restrict public access to court proceedings. The capitalist “justice system”, which is already hostile to workers, especially black and brown workers, must be challenged by workers, such as through solidarity campaigns, in order to counter the power of the ruling class. Reduced access to legal proceedings is an attack on democratic rights, and will make this imbalance of power even greater.
In a further attack on democratic rights, the judge continued to limit submission of video evidence recorded by the defendants which clearly shows the brutality of the Worcester Police Department (WPD). He resisted ordering the prosecution to provide the confiscated phones and videos, instead leniently granting the cops 45 additional days to produce evidence in their possession since June. If the prosecution will not produce the evidence after 45 days voluntarily, the judge stated he would finally require it by court order. WPD and the prosecution dodged questions about the multiple missing and damaged phones that were used to record police actions on June 1st, but eventually the judge ruled that the police must return the phones at the next court date (8 months after the arrests!), and that the phones would be allowed as evidence when it comes to trial.
The judge and prosecution are continuing to push toward a trial. After the first hearing, about the motion to dismiss the charges, some charges were dropped, but at this hearing none of the remaining charges were dismissed. The charges include disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, and failure to disperse from a riot. This process has been marked with incompetence and confusion on the part of the court, with intentional misdirection and delaying on the part of the prosecution, including contradictory police reports, the failure to produce the recordings, and the resistance to allowing them as evidence. It is demonstrating the clear political nature of these charges as something meant to discourage protestors, and it has blown wide open the myth of people having a right to a speedy trial. These charges and proceedings have hung over the heads of the defendants since the summer, including the threat of a criminal record which is an attack on their livelihoods. This threat continues, as the next court date isn’t scheduled until March and the first round of testimony in April!
The solidarity campaign will continue to organize against these charges being pursued by the DA and the WPD, with the complicity of the Worcester City Council. All charges should be dropped immediately! Attempted intimidation of anti-racist, anti-police brutality protestors by the police force and the DA, with the city council looking the other way, will not work. The solidarity campaign welcomes more activists, unions, progressive community organizations, left groups, and social justice organizations to join in the campaign as part of defending our civil rights. Speaking out in public, assembling, protesting, monitoring police activity; these rights only exist when we actually use them.
Police killings have continued through the winter with no answering wave of nationwide anti-racist activism, and the Biden administration is hinting at new repressive laws. The solidarity campaign to get the charges dropped is an opportunity to fight back against police violence and continue to strengthen the anti-racist movement in this crucial moment. It has the possibility to inspire similar campaigns in other cities to defend many people still being prosecuted from the upsurge in Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist protests from last year. The line must be drawn, and it must be demonstrated that police and state sponsored intimidation of the movement will not be allowed. We urge you and any organizations you are involved with to join the fightback! Black Lives Matter!
The fight continues! You can join the campaign today against these repressive attacks by:
- Calling the Worcester DA at (508) 755-8601 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to demand the charges be dropped. Here’s a sample script: tinyurl.com/y868yqfo
- Writing a letter to the editor or an op-ed in a local paper like the Telegram & Gazette. Contact email@example.com for a list of local publications.
- Stay tuned for the next in-person or virtual action!
- Supporting the solidarity campaign as an individual or organization!
- Sharing details of the campaign with friends, family, and coworkers!
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