Tag Archives: Kelley Square protests

Kelley Square Black Lives Matter protesters in court today …

By Gordon Davis

About 50 people came out to the Worcester County Courthouse today and gave support to the Worcester 4 Kelly Square protesters. Most people stood outside the courthouse holding signs regarding BlackLives Matter.

The trial judge hearing the case of the protectors said several things of interest. He said no one in the court could wear a shirt with a message on it. Apparently, one of the defendants had a sweat shirt with “Black Lives Matter“ written on it.  A bailiff brought this to the judge’s attention. There was an objection raised by several of the defense attorneys. The judge then said to be fair he would allow policemen to wear suits and ties.  It is not clear how this is equivocal, or perhaps, he was joking.

The same Judge seemed to be surprised when the defense attorneys present up to 40 preemptory jury questions in a process called voir doire.  The judge did not like some of the questions, especially questions regarding BlackLives Matter, race, and the Ferguson Effect. Although he seemed biased against allowing the issue of race in the voir doire, the Supreme Court of the United States in this 2015-2016 session will hear arguments about whether race is a legitimate preemptory question.  Prosecutors in several states have opposed Black jurors and impaneled all White juries.

The trial judge said he would review the questions and give a ruling on which questions he would allow on December 15, 2015. On that date the jury will be selected. There was agreement that 50 to 60 potential jurors would be needed to impanel a jury for the case. The actual trial, with opening statements, will begin sometime in January 2016.

Curiously, the Judge mentioned the so called Worcester Panhandling case that is now in Appeals Court.  It is being reevaluated in light of the Supreme Court Ruling allowing panhandling in Lowell. The Judge said panhandling is free speech, but the people could not step off the sidewalk to do it. He also said political sign holders might be a danger to the public or a safety issue, if they stayed on the sidewalk and just waved at people in cars.  Is this judge giving the green light for the arrest of political sign holders?  

The implications of this trial are grave and could, like the panhandling case, make its way to the United States Supreme Court.

Sometimes it seemed that the Assistant DA acted as if the Judge would favor him no matter what. In regards to a Motion from the defense  about misidentification of one of the defendants, the Assistant DA was unprepared and did not have his opposition argument with him. He said it was downstairs.  The Judge gave him time to get it. The Assistant DA came back empty handed. One could speculate that he did not write or have the Opposition Memo.  The Judge could have allowed the Motion, as the DA had no opposition to it in court. Instead, the Judge told the Assistant DA to get it to him as soon as he could.

A mistake was made by the Judge in his thinking that the Kelley Square protesters had blocked an ambulance.

This mistake showed prejudice on his part. He had come to a conclusion without evidence. He seemed to additionally err in his thinking on whether the disturbing peace statute contains a “legitimate purpose” clause.

This trial will have an impact in Worcester and Massachusetts. It too may find its way to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to get resolved. 

The WPD: City Manager Ed Augustus and the Worcester City Council’s tool of retaliation and harassment

By Gordon T. Davis

The harassment of the Black Lives Matter protesters by the Worcester Police and by some on the Worcester City Council is unethical and possibly illegal.

The City government is wasting Worcester taxpayers’ money and time by looking for new laws to harass the protesters. Instead, it should be having open discussions about real policing policies, including police misconduct.

The following are some issues for which the Worcester City Council should be setting policy, but is not:

prostitution in Main South

increased shootings in Worcester

increased heroin overdoses in Worcester

the need or lack of need for stationary license plate readers

the use of body cameras on Worcester  police officers.

What are the Worcester City Council’s respective policies that it wants Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus to instruct the Worcester Police Department to effectuate? Do not expect anything controversial …

At the January 13, 2015, Worcester City Council meeting Worcester City Councillor Konstantina Lukes said the Worcester Police were reduced to the tactics of harassment to drive out the people she did not like near her rental property in the Canal District.  The same seems to be taking place again with the Black Lives Matter protesters.

On January 20, 2015, Worcester Police Chief Gemme said he was looking into the actions by the Black Lives Matter protesters who stood out at Kelly Square on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. About 50 protesters, some holding signs on the sidewalk and others standing in the crosswalk, held up traffic that day for four and one half minutes. They did that to bring attention to the four and one-half hours Michael Brown lay dead in the street after being shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer.

Like Councillor Lukes admitted at the Council meeting: Worcester police have been again reduced to a tool of retaliation and harassment.

The evidence that Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme is retaliating and harassing is the fact that he could not articulate any charges that could be brought against the protesters. His comments that he was looking into a “variety” of charges is evidence of the pretext. City Manager Augustus has said it was he who directed Police Chief Gemme to charge the Kelley Square protesters. He claimed they were disrupting people’s day to day lives and putting folks in danger.

The protesters who blocked I 93 near Boston two weeks ago were charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and willfully blocking an ambulance.

None of these charges apply to any of the protesters in Worcester. Worcester sidewalks and crosswalks, like any municipal walkway, are public spaces and there was not a trespassing violation.  The Worcester police did not witness any disorderly conduct. There were no arrests and therefore there could not have been any resistance of arrest. The protesters allowed an ambulance to pass without the ambulance even having to stop.

The Worcester City Council will have to create another oppressive ordinance to charge the Black Lives Matter protesters like it did when it banned panhandling or shooed the We Are The 99% protesters off the Worcester City Common.  Then Worcester Mayor Joe O’Brien wanted to meet with the protesters, but they were anathema to then Worcester City Manager Mike O’Brien, who kept them off public space, often used through history for the community to gather together – our Worcester Common. Once again, city officials will hide behind the straw man of “public safety.”

At the City Council meeting of January 20, 2015, Councillor Lukes and others compelled the Worcester City Manager to explain the “protocols” for demonstrations. Although the Black Lives Matter demonstrations have gone on for months, City Manager Augustus has not said much about them. Now Augustus is tamping them down.

The Worcester City Manager is supposed to be the “civilian” review board for Worcester. It is clear that Augustus is not capable of making any necessary reforms to the Worcester Police Department.

I can’t remember any time that the Worcester City Council deliberated any policy for the Worcester Police Department. As a rule it allows the Police Chief to do as he sees fit, and our city managers have just rubber-stamped police activities. It is ironic that police policy was deliberated at the January 20, 2015, City Council meeting –  when the issue was the Black Lives Matter protesters.

I was told that the City Council has requested about 40 reports from the City Manager about the activities of the Worcester Police and none have been given to the Worcester City Council. Police Chief Gemme uses as an excuse for his non-compliance the lack of police personnel to do the research.

No one really knows what is going on in the Worcester Police Department.