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News :: Politics : Race
Worcester, MA: Three Arrested in Charlottesville Solidarity March
16 Aug 2017
On Sunday August 13th, a crowd of several hundred people turned out in front of Worcester City Hall to show solidarity with those in Charlottesville, Virginia and the death of an anti-fascist protester who had been killed while demonstrating against white supremacists the day before. The morning before the rally, anarchists hung a banner saying “FIGHT BACK AGAINST WHITE SUPREMACY, #defendcville”, advertising the rally on a chain link fence outside the Worcester World Cup, a huge annual soccer tournament involving many different immigrant communities across the city.
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The local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice were granted a permit to rally in front of City Hall for a few hours, during which people from various racial justice organizations spoke out against systemic racism. A group called League of Just Us set up a temporary printmaking station on a large tarp and invited people to print their own signs and bandanas reading “RESIST FASCISM” and “NO RICH ASSHOLE NO KKK NO FASCIST USA.” Towards the end of the speakers, a group of anarchists dropped several banners from street lamps and a balcony overlooking the crowd. The banners read, “Whose side are you on?”, “If you’re not anti-fascist, what are you?,” and “Put racism on the run – Worcester antifa.”

After the official permitted rally, people took to Main Street and blocked traffic while marching, carrying large signs, and shouting anti-racist slogans. As others poured into the streets the police began trying to force the marchers back onto the sidewalk. Marchers continued to push onto the street until one protester was singled out, charged at, and ultimately arrested. The march continued towards the jail but was followed closely by a heavy police presence involving at least 16 police vehicles. They harassed the protesters verbally and through the use of coordinated sirens attempted to intimidate them. Protestors were blocked from entering the jail, so they turned back and on the way towards City Hall two more were arrested. The arrests occured while marchers were dispersing and trying to leave. The three arrested were charged with disorderly conduct and released late that night.

During the march police officers made several threats towards protestors. At one point, a police officer had been putting a pair of gloves on, taking them off, and snapping them against his wrist. When a protester asked, “Are your hands sweaty?” the officer responded, “Keep talking and you’ll find out.” Shortly after that comment, another police officer told the protestors that they were likely to end up like the protester who had been murdered by a car in Charlottesville.

Overt racism has been on the rise in Worcester for the last several years, ever since the founding of a local blog called “Turtleboy Sports.” Initially a sports blog, Turtleboy Sports began harassing local community organizers and activists during the height of Ferguson and Black Lives Matter solidarity. The blog is run by Aiden Kearney, a former high school teacher who left his job due to accusations of sexually harassing young women at a sports game. Worcester City Councillor Michael Gaffney continues to financially support Turtleboy Sports by advertising his law practice, while also describing himself as the “People’s Councillor.” Similar to the rhetoric of the blog, of rich asshole, and of the alt-right at large, Councillor Gaffney claims to be speaking the truth that most people are afraid to admit. Some comments on the Turtleboy Sports blog have included calls for sexually harassing local activists, the forced sterilzation of people of color, and death to black people. The blog is named after an infamously awkward statue in the City Commons which has long been a beloved, tongue-in-cheek symbol of Worcester residents. On the night of the rally, the Turtleboy statue was decorated with a bandana, sticker and sign from the protest.

Worcester has a history of resisting white supremacy and fascism: in 1924, 15,000 members of the KKK tried to gather but were forced out of town after a riot in opposition broke out involving cars getting stoned and burned, windows smashed, and passengers pulled out and beaten up. Sunday’s march is a continuation of Worcester’s anti-fascist resistance, sending a message that fascists are not welcome, and that Worcester stands in solidarity with the people of Charlottesville.
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