Activists and protesters in Worcester, Massachusetts have cause for celebration! All remaining charges against the protestors and bystanders attacked and arrested during anti-racist protests on June 1st, 2020 have been dropped! The Worcester Police Department’s attacks against the Black Lives Matter movement and our right to protest have been defeated.
At the last court hearing on March 8, 2021, the prosecution once again refused to release video evidence that would prove the protestors and bystanders innocent. The judge, after nine and a half months, finally delivered an ultimatum to the Worcester Police Department (WPD) to provide phones that had been confiscated or destroyed while recording on June 1st, as well as other video evidence such as footage from police cruisers.
Since then, evidence has been slowly released by the WPD with glaring problems! Footage was clearly edited to remove key moments in which police used excessive force and moments that proved the defendants were innocent of the charges. Some footage was missing for seconds or minutes, other pieces of video were missing for up to an hour!
However, other evidence exists that the cops were unable to tamper with or bury, including video from businesses in the neighborhood where the confrontation occurred and footage live streamed by some of those arrested.
A solidarity campaign led by the Independent Socialist Group (ISG), demanded that all charges be dropped against those arrested. The Drop the Charges campaign organized a series of informational pickets and standouts near the Worcester Courthouse, public protests at City Hall, and public meetings to get the word out in Worcester and beyond, in order to help get the charges dropped and to defend the right to assemble and protest. The campaign also encouraged people to pack the online courtroom hearings and to call the DA’s office urging all the charges be dropped against the arrested protesters and bystanders.
Worcester City Council members have repeatedly refused to speak out against the wrongful arrests and bogus charges against the protesters and bystanders from the June 1st protest rally; even though a Worcester City Council member initiated the rally in memory of George Floyd.
Members of ISG, on behalf of the Drop the Charges campaign, directly challenged the hypocrisy and inaction of the Worcester City Council at city council meetings. Instead of opposing unfair charges levied against Black Lives Matter protesters, the Worcester City Council voted to give the WPD an extra quarter of a million dollars in funding (despite the WPD already being the single largest line item in the city budget, currently with a budget of $53 million, one-third of the total “City Operations” budget) while simultaneously cutting public services and jobs. Earlier this month, City Council even voted in favor of the police department purchasing racist AI “crime forecasting” technology, using money from a fund intended to protect city jobs!
The police, courts, and the prison system uphold a set of laws steeped in racism and repression. Purely legal defenses, regardless of the evidence, are not always successful. In this case, despite the overwhelming evidence proving the protestors and bystanders innocence, it was always possible for the charges against them to end in severe penalties including criminal convictions and jail time. The Drop the Charges campaign was formed to put pressure on the so-called “justice” system in Worcester and the City Council to drop the charges. The charges were similar to thousands of other ongoing attempts to imprison Black Lives Matter protestors around the U.S. and were leveled specifically to try and intimidate the Black Lives Matter protests in Worcester. If the charges were carried through, they would have had a negative effect on anti-racist and other progressive and left protests in Worcester and other areas.
The Drop the Charges campaign is proud to have played a role in helping get the charges dismissed. The Worcester Police Department, District Attorney, and City Council should be held accountable for these racist political attacks.
We also call for:
- All medical, lost property, legal, and other costs to be covered by the Worcester Police Department from their bloated budget.
- For the Solidarity Campaign to lay the basis for an anti-racist coalition in Worcester to help continue the work of Black Lives Matter and related movements.
- Worcester City Council to reverse the implementation of the racist ShotSpotter “predictive crime” technology.
- Worcester City Council to significantly defund the WPD, starting with the extra $400,000 in funding given to the Worcester Police Department last summer. At the same time, City Council should increase funding to public services including education, health, transportation, and housing. This would especially benefit working people of color and create jobs.