Trial of the four Worcester Black Lives Matter demonstrators – an update

By Gordon Davis

In Court Room 14 of Worcester District Court four protesters associated with the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement were arraigned today for disturbing the peace.

Their charges stem from the demonstration in a cross walk that ran through part of the Kelly Square intersection in Worcester.

At the arraignment each of the four defendants pled “not guilty” and was released on their own recognizance.

The attorneys for the respective parties agreed to a pretrial hearing date of July 19, 2015, at which possible resolution could be discussed, as well as evidential issues.

The City of Worcester ordinance under which they were charged is the following:

§ 1. Disorderly Behavior No person shall engage in fighting, threatening or violent or tumultuous behavior; or conduct that creates a riotous commotion and excessively unreasonable noise so as to constitute a public nuisance; or conduct that creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition; which behavior or conduct has the purpose of causing public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, and which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.

The defense attorneys indicated that a possible defense is the element of the ordinance that calls for “legitimate purpose.”

The reasoning is that the protesters were exercising their freedom of speech.

This is a constitutionally defined legitimate purpose. According to one of the defense attorneys, several courts have upheld freedom of speech as a legitimate purpose.  

The term is not defined in the Worcester City ordinances. A different defense attorney indicated that might be other defenses.

Each of the defense attorneys indicated that he would file a motion to dismiss before the July 19, 2015, pretrial hearing.