Worcester gets a visit from the Department of Justice

By Gordon Davis

It was announced recently that the City of Worcester invited the Department of Justice to hold discussions on race.

The question arises: Why doesn’t the City hold these hearings directly? People have been demanding that there be increased scrutiny of the police department, a review of the seemingly racist overreaction at North High School, and the lack of written city policies on developers hiring Worcester residents for their Worcester construction projects.

Many people have said our public schools are underfunded and a part of a system that will have negative racial impacts.  The people who have gone to Worcester City Council meetings, Worcester School Committee meetings and other meetings are still here and no one from City Hall has asked them to begin a “discussion” on race.

The Department of Justice will work with Worcester through the Worcester City Manager’s Coalition against Bias and Hate. This group consists of very well meaning people, but as a group it has not spoken out against the racist murders of unarmed working class people, especially Black men. It has not spoken out against the racist over-reaction against North High students. It remained silent when the issue of jobs for Worcester residents was raised at the former Worcester County Courthouse. The Coalition against Bias and Hate is run by the Worcester City Manager to give him cover on issues of race.

This cover for the City is seen in that it went to the media first before it contacted any Black or Latino person who has raised his/her voice against racism.

The Coalition has said it would announce a schedule for the race discussions on April 24. This makes no sense, given the urgency of the issue. The arrest of a police officer for allegedly beating a handcuffed prisoner at the City lock up adds more urgency to the situation. I don’t think that the City’s Coalition against Bias and Hate has the experience or will to do anything  substantial against racism, given its track record. However, I will keep an open mind on the issue.

The discussion of race should include the urgent discussion of police conduct and that of Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus. He and Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme are seeking charges against two people who have participated in the Black Lives Matter new civil rights movement and were at the Kelley Square Black Lives Matter protest. This is an obvious attempt by the City of Worcester to intimidate other people who have raised their voices against racism. There is no evidence that can be used in court against the two people, but the City is going forward with its prosecution next week, on April 15.

There will be a rally on April 14, 6:30 p.m., at Worcester City Hall, Main Street, in support of the people being persecuted by the City of Worcester. On April 18, 1 p.m., there will be a discussion of race and police conduct sponsored by the Massachusetts Human Rights Commission and the Progressive Labor Party at the Worcester Public Library, located at 3 Salem Square in downtown Worcester. Be there!

Worcester City Councillor Konstantina (Konnie) Lukes owes the City and its residents an apology for her “support the police department absolutely” resolution. Her resolution and statements made by Michael Gaffney have made it that much harder to appropriately scrutinize police misconduct. This issue should also be discussed during the DoJ discussion on race.

The Department of Justice coming to Worcester and the arrest of the police officer in Worcester for alleged civil rights violations are a sign that the Black (All) Lives Matter new civil rights movement is making an impact. These things would not have happened, if it were not for the protests, meetings, workshops and marches of the people speaking out against racism.