By Gordon Davis
There were two celebrations on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Worcester:
There was the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at Quinsigamond Community College on West Boylston Street. At this event an activist, Chris Horton, from the Worcester Anti Foreclosure Team, was slammed to the ground and arrested by police after he started to hand out flyers about predatory lending.
Mr. Horton was allegedly arrested when the MLK Breakfast organizers called the police to force him to stop passing out the flyer. The police charged Mr. Horton with assault and battery on a police officer.
It really did not matter whether Mr. Horton touched a police officer – once a police officer slams you to the ground, there is an automatic charge of assault and battery.
The other celebration in Worcester of Martin Luther King Jr. Day was the March Against Racism at Kelley Square:
Between 60 and 80 people marched down Green Street to Kelly Square. The location was chosen because four Black Lives Matter protesters were arrested there on MLK Day in 2015. They are still on trial.
The march to Kelly Square was organized by radical organizations, much like during the old Civil Rights Movement NAACP and SNCC. The Progressive Labor, Socialist Alternative, Communities United Collective and Worcester Immigrants Coalition were the main organizing groups. Although diverse, the groups had a common goal of anti-racism, anti sexism, ending racist deportation and economic justice for all. It was clear that this group would not be intimidated by any retaliation by city government.
Although not an organizer of the march, EPOCA an ex prisoner support group, joined the rally. The speaker from EPOCA talked of the racism and discrimination experienced by many ex prisoners. She also talk of its effort to abolish the $500 fee that is required to obtain a license by an ex prisoner, an almost prohibitive barrier for some.
Many people today do not remember or do not associate the urban rebellions of the 1960s with the old Civil Rights movement.
When Dr. King attempted to organize northern Black people in the cities he was rudely made aware of the militancy that created the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X and the Worcester Black Coalition.
I suppose Dr. King expected the White racism he faced in Cicero, Illinois. He could not have expected that young Black people in Watts would call him Martin “Loser” King.
The old Civil Rights movement in the South was to some extent prettified with men in suits and religious people (all good and brave people). The men in dungarees and those who spoke Geechee were only seen in the background. Dr. King eventually understood the contradictions of such tactics and began to support working-class and poor people, such as the garbage men and their strike in Tennessee. He was in Tennessee supporting them when he was assassinated.
To some extent the Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfasts have become the pretty faces for the liberals – the face of struggle without the struggle.
Please do not get the wrong idea: I think that the people doing these things are good people and well intentioned. I know most of them and I consider them my friends. I am sure some of them would like to disassociate themselves from the new militancy of the BlackLives Matter. This has certainly been the case with some “liberal” people.
BlackLives Matter new Civil Rights movement has given a new face to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Worcester and in the nation.
The blockade of Kelly Square in 2015 by people protesting the killing of Michael Brown by the police added a sharpness and militancy to Dr. King’s Day that has continued through the year in Worcester and many cities and towns in America.
This militancy continued on January 18, 2016, when a coalition of groups and individuals marched against racism at Kelly Square calling out the city government and its police force. It was an action that joined Worcester to the BlackLives Matter civil rights movement.