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.