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If the cops weren’t there, something bad could have happened
A moment of anniversary reflection on the inciting event of this newsletter
Today Worcester Sucks and I Love It turns three years old. That’s crazy! That’s objectively a long time for something I started out of desperation, not the least bit confident it would work or, frankly, the least bit worried if it failed. It was either this newsletter or I got out of journalism completely.
Three years later, the situation is a lot different. Now I’m worried. I have something to lose. The newsletter is both my full-time job and the defining achievement of my life. Its future is entirely contingent on people continuing to sign up for monthly or yearly paid subscriptions. Every time a subscription renews, I’m asking more of the people who support me. I know there will eventually be a limit to that support.
Since June 2020, when I launched this thing, the independent newsletter market has exploded. What I am doing is no longer novel. Journalism, especially local journalism, is just as “under attack” as it was in the Trump years, but it’s not as sexy to talk about under Biden. There’s no heel anymore, just the same slow boring erosion of the industry. In 2016-2020, supporting journalism was a cause du jor. Not the case in 2023. But the work continues.
There’s no outside current to lean on like there was in 2020. There’s no “moment.” Worcester Sucks lives or dies on my ability to execute and you, the reader, feeling as though I provide something of value.
As I reflect on three years of doing this thing, I know for certain I have gotten immensely better at both the craft and the art of writing about a city and a city’s politics. I know for a certain that people find my work valuable. I know I’ve made a contribution to the form of local journalism, so badly needing to adapt and evolve with such little resources to do so. My best work is still within me somewhere, waiting to be written. I know that. With any luck, my work will inspire someone more talented than me to do it better than I can. The day I pass that torch will be a happy one.
Over these three years that Worcester Sucks has existed there has been an undeniable leftward swing in Worcester politics—a genuine and brewing movement. This newsletter is a contributing factor. I know that too.
If today was the last day of Worcester Sucks’ life I’d be content with what I was able to achieve with it. But it’s not the last day. Not even close. Game on.
Here’s where I’m at business-wise as I head into Year Four.
I’ve hit what appears to be the peak revenue of this newsletter, coasting at more or less $40,000 a year for the past year or so. Paid subscribers fall off, new ones come on, it stays steady at around 600. As is the case every June, I’ll probably lose a clip of paid subscribers at once, then slowly build back up. It’s enough to make a modest living. It is somewhat reliable at this point.
Meanwhile, the total email list grows steadily all the time. I just hit 3,000 total subscribers a couple weeks ago. That chart only climbs upward. No dips. While the number of people paying ebbs and flows, the number of people reading only expands.
Overall, this is the more important metric to me than the paid subscription numbers. The data is encouraging!
Moral of the story is this: I have at least another year to live off this newsletter, coasting at around $40,000 in revenue and treating it like my full-time job. Something drastically different would have to happen with these numbers for that to not be the case. Two more years even feels somewhat dependable. Game on!! Let’s go!!
For the next month, I’ll be running a 50 percent sale on a year subscription! That’s just $34 bucks for a whole year! Please consider it!
The main segment of this post is an extensive narrative re-examination of the June 1, 2020 incident of police brutality against Black Lives Matter demonstrators on Main Street. Really, that night was the inciting incident for this newsletter. If I hadn’t witnessed that, I wouldn’t have written columns for Worcester Magazine that got censored by the Telegram. I wouldn’t have rubbed up against the limits of what I could publish in a traditional outlet. I wouldn’t have quit. Wouldn’t have taken the risk.
It was serendipitous in a way that just a few weeks ago, a class action lawsuit was filed against the city regarding that fateful night. The complaint is a thorough description of that night like we’ve never before seen. If ever there’s something to look back and reflect on with this anniversary post, this is it.
But before we get to that, I have an announcement to make!
Like many people I watched the hit HBO series Succession. Like many fine people I enjoyed the program. However I always found it quite confusing when I’d read things in certain Online Spaces describing Logan Roy, patriarch of the Roy family and self-made billionaire, as the show’s “villain.” Really? The one self-made man in an ensemble cast of little piss babies and hangers on and social climbers is the bad guy? Not all the ungrateful little pricks around him? The ones who owe all they have to the man? And who have never built anything worthwhile in their lives? You might think Logan dogged a lot of people in his day. That he was ruthless. A bad father. Sociopathic in his pursuit of more when he already had so much. So much has been made about Logan’s dogging and not nearly enough has been made about the people who let themselves be dogged. I say, if it barks like a dog and begs like a dog and whimpers the insolent little whine of a dog? You’re looking at a dog. What is the point of a dog if not to be dogged? Logan never took anything that other people didn’t lay down and allow him to him take. In short, Logan Roy did nothing wrong.
You might have guessed it by now. I’m getting into the media acquisition business. Building an empire, which is a fine and normal thing to do. As Logan taught us.
The first acquisition of the Worcester Sucks Media Empire World Wide, announced today, is Shaun Connolly’s Bad Advice column. Which will appear in this newsletter on a weekly basis as its own sort of “thing” in its own section.
The idea is you ask Shaun for advice and he gives it to you in column form. And then I pay him. Woof woof, Shaun! You’re mine now.
The negotiations were extensive and, at times, fraught. Bloody, even. Bad Advice enters the Worcester Sucks fold a spoil of war. A war that I won. Fuck off. And it wasn’t cheap to fight this war, folks, it wasn’t cheap at all. Bad Advice is costing me tens of dollars. So pony up. If you don’t subscribe, I can’t do acquisitions. Shaun can’t get his little treat after I say “SPEAK” and he publishes his weekly column as he was trained. I can’t afford my several divorces. Nor can I afford to keep making the hush payments. Once the hush fund runs dry all falls down. It falls fast and hard. And it won’t be pretty. You won’t like what you’re seeing.
Matter of fact… I need you. I’m begging you. Please. Pretty please! You’re all I have, I’d be nothing without you. It’s me that’s the dog. I go woof woof. Here. 50 percent off for a year’s subscription. Is that good? Do you like that? Are you proud of me? Do you love me?
Shaun’s first column will appear on here some time Wednesday unless he blows his first deadline. In which case I’ll say “no worries dude get it up when you can” and he probably will I hope.
Now for the main event.
If the cops weren’t there, something bad could have happened
Amid thousands of demonstrators outside the Worcester County Courthouse on June 1, 2020, Police Chief Steven Sargent took a knee, a move which earned him a glowing profile in the Wall Street Journal later that year. On the front page. The WSJ led the piece with the moment:
WORCESTER, Mass.—Police Chief Steven Sargent knelt on the street for close to nine minutes, head bowed, hands clasped. He wore a sidearm on his hip and a gold badge on his chest. His stomach was in a knot.
The chief was surrounded by thousands of protesters gathered in his hometown, the second-largest city in New England. The crowd marched down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and took a knee in front of the courthouse on June 1, posing silently for roughly the same length of time George Floyd had been pinned to a street in Minneapolis by an officer’s knee on his neck a week earlier.
“Damn,” Chief Sargent recalled thinking as the minutes passed. “That’s a long time.” He was disgusted at Mr. Floyd’s death, and told residents and his officers as much. None worthy of the badge thought what happened was right.
Just a few hours later, Sargent’s officers would threaten to rape a young woman they’d pinned to the ground. Damn. Fire a barrage of pepper spray bullets at a photojournalist. Damn. Punch a woman in the face then ask if she’s a “nigger lover.” Damn. Sic a police dog on a man, letting it bark and snap inches from his face as two officers pressed him to the pavement with their knees. Damn. They smashed people and they smashed phones. They pulled out the “less-than-lethal” weapons. They didn’t make distinctions between demonstrators and bystanders. They relished in the violence. Bragged about it. Taunted those they arrested. Then when it came time to file arrest reports, they lied through their teeth. Carelessly. They cut and they pasted.
In the days that followed, city officials praised the officers for showing “tremendous restraint.” The internal investigations that eventually happened all ended in exonerations. Not a single disciplinary measure handed down from Sargent. Then to the courts, where a year later, in May 2021, all 19 cases against protestors were dropped. Not a single charge stuck. Meritless, all of it.
Now, these officers and their bosses–all the way up to former City Manager Ed Augustus—are the subject of a massive class action lawsuit, filed June 1 in Federal Court. Twelve plaintiffs, all with horrific stories to share. All victims of a police department which did its best to demonstrate the problem that brought protestors to the streets in the first place. The plaintiffs are being represented by Hector Piniero and Joseph Hennessy, two lawyers who serve as the only real accountability mechanism there is for the WPD.
As detailed in the 100-page complaint, the cops that night were expecting a fight, they created the circumstances for a fight, they instigated a fight, they fought with overwhelming force and garish brutality. A few dozen young people looking for an outlet to express their anger at a violent and oppressive institution, met with the full and terrifying force of it. After, all of the city’s political class rallied behind a narrative which lionized the cops and made a feral boogeyman of the kids. Thank god for the WPD they said. If the cops weren’t there, something bad could have happened.
Unless otherwise stated, the complaint document is the source material for everything in this piece.
The night of
At some point on June 1, 2020, likely first thing in the morning, Police Chief Steven Sargent got to the work of amassing a war party. He consulted with City Manager Ed Augustus, the top commanders of his department and the Massachusetts State Police. There was a Black Lives Matter protest to take place on Main Street that evening. For Sargent, and, to no small degree, Augustus, that meant all hands on deck.
Sargent and Augustus called up the riot squad and put it on alert. Among the “tactical units” the two “ordered activation” was Tactical Patrol Force Project 6. Fifty men strong and dressed in riot gear, Project 6 was under the command of Police Lt. David Maher. They were joined by 28 members of the WPD Service Division, who also donned riot gear.
At the same time, Sargent summoned the SWAT Team, 30 officers strong, to don riot gear and equip themselves with .45 cal sidearms and several 5.56 mm rifles. Three K-9 officers with dogs and two members of the gang unit were similarly deployed.
As the day dragged on and the demonstration drew closer, the Worcester police had a force nearly 100 strong on standby. Waiting, unseen, until they got the call. The commanders of this force knew that almost none of the officers were trained in crowd control tactics. At that time, the department’s use of force policy did not contain any language around the concept of de-escalation. Such language wouldn’t be added until June 2022, two years later.
Putting this untrained riot squad on alert was the extent of Sargent’s plan for handling the demonstration to come. None of the officers in this squad had any formalized training on de-escalation.
“The failure to train and the absence of any training in de-escalation of force evinces deliberate indifference to the rights of citizens,” the lawsuit reads.
Two days before, on May 30, an email circulated through the department, from Deputy Edward McGinn. It read:
“Please make sure all sworn staff is fully equipped in full duty belts (unless in cell room) in case we are needed to assist in the enforcement of this protest. We'll need both wagons staffed and stocked should we need them tomorrow. . . .[P]lease ask for volunteers to come in if on off duty status (OT status). In the event we get a flurry of arrests, we'll need the staff to support this and to handle the influx of people trying to bail them out.”
A flurry of arrests. The department was bracing itself for a showdown.
As his war party laid in wait, Sargent went down to the demonstration and took a knee outside the courthouse.
Taken by itself, it was a nice enough image. A common move for police chiefs that summer. Meant to say “I understand the problem. I want to fix it. I’m on your side.” That’s what the photo—and of course there was a photo—was meant to show. The hundred riot officers off frame told a different story. As did the “trove” of photos that two officers, one employed by crime scene services, took over the course of the demonstration—of peaceful demonstrators and organizers and activists and a Black City Councilor (unnamed in the lawsuit but Khrystian King is a safe assumption).
Officers in the wings should things get ugly. Officers in the crowd planning for the ugliness, harvesting pre-crime data. And the police chief among the crowd on a symbolic knee.
At about 9 p.m., after most of the demonstrators had gone home, myself included, the cops got what they wanted. A small group of demonstrators began to march down Main Street toward Main South. They were followed by police. They held signs and chanted the slogans of that summer—”George Floyd,” “No justice, no peace,” “Black Lives Matter”—and for a good long stretch of this impromptu march, there was no significant conflict between the demonstrators and the cops that followed them.
Then they got to the May Street intersection, and found more cops waiting for them. Cops had blocked the intersection, leaving protestors with nowhere to walk. Cops in front of them, cops behind them. Herded there, intentionally, with nowhere to go. Some laid down on the street. One led a prayer for George Floyd. Eventually, the crowd spilled past a cruiser and into the Dunkin Donuts parking lot.
The original plan was to “kettle” the group on Hammond Street and arrest them there. When that failed, they moved to Plan B: a force march. This is when things got ugly.
The riot squad Sargent and Augustus had amassed earlier that day got the call they were waiting for. They spilled onto the intersection, outnumbering the small group of protestors by degrees. Armed with batons and dressed in black body armor and helmets, they stood shoulder to shoulder, forming a barricade between Main Street and Hammond Street. Then they started marching toward the protestors, who retreated down Main Street.
This is when I showed up. I was at a fire at my friend’s house on the other side of the city. A Telegram photographer texted me that something big was happening. I turned on the police scanner and heard the fracas. I ran to my car and sped down to the scene.
When I arrived, I saw this line of militarized police officers marching toward the protestors, shoving their batons outward with each step and rhythmically chanting “MOVE MOVE MOVE.”
I took Facebook live videos. In this one, you see the cops marching toward the protestors. At the end, out of frame, an officer shoves a young Black girl in the back with his baton. In this one, you see one of the pepper spray projectiles the officers fired at the protestors. It looked and smelled like tear gas. Everyone thought it was tear gas. It hurt to breath in.
It went on like this for a long time. As we retreated backward, it was unclear where this line of officers wanted us to go. But they didn’t stop pushing the crowd backward until a few blocks from Clark University. It’s there they started using their “less than lethal” weapons. They fired hundreds of pepper spray projectiles at the crowd. They began to make arrests.
“They are shooting stuff, shooting stuff, the police are shooting stuff... they are shooting rubber bullets... shooting into the crowd,” a MassLive reporter on the scene said on a livestream.
The way these weapons were used is at odds with the department’s own policies. In 2007, the department published policy document 400.6, titled “Kinetic Energy Impact Projectiles Less-Lethal Shotgun Guidelines.” The 15-year-old policy only accounts for these shotguns, and was never updated to reflect other such weapons in the WPD arsenal. There are no guidelines for using these weapons as crowd control. The department’s use of force guidelines dictate that pepperball rounds was only appropriate in “Level Four” situations—the highest level.
The 40mm launchers used to fire these rounds are the same that killed a woman in Boston during the 2013 Boston Red Sox World Series celebration. The manufacturer warns the product may cause series bodily injury or death. It is a semi-automatic weapon with a muzzle velocity of 325 feet per second.
Police fired Safari-Smoke grenades at the crowd, hitting at least two people with what they called “warning projectiles.” One bystander was hit in the hand. Another still had bruises a week later.
The smoke in these grenades is suspected of causing cancer. One of the active components is Hexachloroethane. Effects of this chemical include nausea, vomiting, central nervous system depression and kidney and liver damage. The grenades are toxic to aquatic life. The manufacturer warns they should never be allowed to reach sewage systems and should never be mixed with household garbage. The police left these rounds at the scene. The next day, volunteers cleaned them up.
The cops also fired sponge-tip bullets called eXact impact rounds. The manufacturer warns that the rounds are not be used at distances closer than 40 meters, as they could cause injury or death. They advise that these bullets are never fired directly at people. The cops fired at least two of these at protestors that night.
The lawsuit reads:
“There were no legal justifications for these actions and no reasonable police officer or supervisors would have employed such an extraordinary level of force against protestors/bystanders.”
Firing these weapons at the demonstrators was far from the only extraordinary behavior on display from the Worcester Police Department that night.
The 12 plaintiffs in this lawsuit were each the victim of a gambit of abuses of police power. Each of their stories are nightmarish vignettes which together paint a clear picture: the Worcester police officers was not there that night to prevent chaos, they were there to cause it.
I’ll run through each as briefly as I can.
One of the first to be arrested was Ashley Briddon. She was thrown to the ground by a riot squad officer and taken into custody. During the arrest, a cop threatened that if he was touched by a demonstrator, then Briddon would be raped.
“Don’t touch, we’ll rape her,” an officer says in a video capturing the arrest. You can watch it here.
“Did you just say rape?” a demonstrator asks.
The officer blows a kiss in their direction.
Javier Amarat wasn’t involved in the demonstration even a little bit. He was stopped on Loudon Street in his car by gang unit officers, who told him not to drive down Main Street. The officers then did a pat-and-frisk search of Amarat, claiming he had a gun, though Amarat didn’t have one nor does he even own one. They shoved him and told him to “get the fuck out of here.”
The lawsuit alleges this is a common practice.
At all pertinent times there was an unwritten and unconstitutional policy and practice of the City and the WPD that officers could stop, frisk, and search anyone with or without grounds and without reporting this conduct. This unwritten custom and practice evinced deliberate indifference to the rights of persons under the Fourth Amendment and Massachusetts constitution.
As Amarat walked back to his car, officers followed him. He said “bitch ass nigga” and officers took that as justification to open the car door and yank Amarat out of it. They threw him to the ground and handcuffed him, twisting his wrist to intentionally cause pain.
Then came the dog.
Officer Shaun Tivnan and his police dog approached Amarat as two officers kept him pinned to the ground. The dog was barking and snapping at Amarat, inches from his face. It’s against department policy to use dogs for crowd control or to intimidate a detainee. But, alas, that’s how the dog was used. Amarat live streamed the whole thing. The cops took his phone and tried to destroy it. He never got it back. The livestream showed the arrest report to be false. The department did nothing to correct the false report. There was an internal investigation that resulted in no disciplinary action for any of the officers involved. Sargent opted to do nothing about it, as is a running theme in these stories.
Olyvia Crum, a Clark student who lived near the Main Street scene, wasn’t at the rally earlier that day or one of the protestors the cops were force marching down the street. She arrived at the scene around 10:30 p.m. as a bystander. She was recording the scene on a cell phone. She was hit in the face with a pepperball round. She went home and changed out of her pepper spray covered clothes and returned after midnight to find that two of her friends were being arrested. She ran toward them and an officer yelled “get on the fucking ground.” She complied, lying face-down on the pavement. In the process, her phone was knocked from her hands but continued to record. Officers told to “stand up, stand fucking up” as they yanked her ot her feet. Then Officer David Green forced his knee into her back, causing agonizing pain. With his knee on her back, he said he “caught one of these assholes.” Crum then witnesses police officers repeatedly punching her boyfriend in the back. Officer Green filed a false report—the same cut-and-paste narrative used to describe Crum’s and four other arrests.
After an internal review, Sargent refused to discipline Green in any way.
Jay Verchin, another bystander, was falsely accused of throwing rocks and firing fireworks at the riot cops. He was tackled and arrested by an officer, who filed a false report to support his claims. Video evidence easily disproved the claim. The charges were eventually dropped, as were all the charges pressed that night.
Sarah Drapeau, a Clark student, was another bystander recording the scene. She witnessed Verchin get tackled and ran over to record it. Officers grabbed her and violently pressed their knees into her back then arrested her.
While she was waiting to be booked, an officer joked how funny it would be if one of the male protesters was sexually assaulted in the drunk tank.
Antonio Barrera and his sister Patricia were not in any way involved in the demonstration. They were walking on Main Street when two vans came up behind them and a line of officers ran at them. Barrera put his hands up and said he was walking home. One officer tackled him and another shoved his sister to the ground. They charged him with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and failure to disperse. An officer took his phone in the process, but never entered it into evidence. Barrera never got it back.
Max Marcotte was another Clark student. He attended the march and the demonstration at City Hall. He returned to his home on Loudon Street. At midnight he heard the noise on Main Street and went over to investigate. He saw officers tackle a young woman. He began to record on his phone. Without any warning, an officer put him in an armbar and threw him to the ground. He hit his head on the pavement. The officer kneeled on his back, then struck him several times in the head and back. The officer said “you’re not tough anymore.” The injury to his right shoulder has never healed. The cop submitted a false report. After an internal review, Sargent declined to discipline the officer.
Richard Cummings was at the scene as a freelance photojournalist. He was hit twice by projectiles fired by cops. In one of his videos, he recorded an officer saying “I loved to hit him with the pepper gun.” In another, Sgt. Shawn Barbale was recorded saying he’d been hit with a firecracker. “Fucking kill the guy who just fucking shot me,” he said.
Eventually, Cummings was tackled by three officers. They pinned him against a retaining wall, twisted his arms. One officer called him a faggot. Another threatened to break his arm, telling him he would be beaten by the “spics” they’d arrested. In the wagon, he had a panic attack. The police report contained fabricated evidence. It said he walked past the front line. He didn’t. He was grabbed from behind. One of the arresting officers, Jarret Watkins, had previously been sued in federal court for fracturing the skull of an arrestee.
Veronica Euga and Chris Euga
A cop called Veronica Euga a “stupid bitch” before punching her in the forehead. Two other cops punched her in the ribs. One of the cops asked Euga, who’s White, “is the reason why you’re here because you’re a Nigger lover?”
I’m just going to include this paragraph from the lawsuit in full. Because holy shit.
“Later that month the Worcester Police Union held a “Back the Blue Rally” attended by many of the officers who worked the June 1st protests. At the union event off-duty officers accosted a small group of counter demonstrators, some calling them, “nigger lovers.” and telling them that but for the police they would be raped to death by the black males whose deaths at the hands of police were the focus of their protests.”
Her husband, Chris, was also punched in the face. Again, false reports. Again, the charges were dropped. Again, there was an internal investigation. Again, Sargent did not discipline the officers.
Like Cummings, Bishop was there as a freelance journalist. The cops fired a barrage of pepper spray projectiles at him, after he’d identified himself as a journalist. The lawsuit describes this as “part of a deliberate and retaliatory attempt to use military grade weapons in order to prevent members of the media from being able to perform their duties of documenting the protest as representatives of the free press. An act that if allowed to go unaccounted for would send a chilling precedent in a functioning democracy.”
At one point, Bishop encountered a man who said he’d been attacked by a police dog. He had a bite wound on his hand.
There is so so so much more in this complaint. Too much to include. It is damning. I’d encourage you to read the whole thing.
In total, the lawsuit levels 44 charges on the City of Worcester, City Manager Ed Augustus, Police Chief Steven Sargent and 14 named police officers: Shawn Frigon, Trevis Coleman, Shawn Tivnan, Brett J. Kubiak, Brian M. Piskator, Nathan P. Lafleche, David Green, Lt. Michael R. Girouard, Sgt. Daniel Lopopolo, Sgt. Ryan J. Maher, Lt. David P. Doherty, Sgt. Michael R. Loverin, Duy Chao, Sgt. Jarret Watkins, as well as 15 “John Does” in the department.
The charges cover pretty much the entire repertoire of police abuses, from false arrest and malicious prosecution to assault and battery to violations of First Amendment rights to unreasonable force.
Augustus and Sargent are personally named in one charge of “supervisor liability.” From the complaint:
At all pertinent times both Chief Sargent and City Manager Mr. Augustus knew that without effective control of the use of force by police citizens are subject to violation of their constitutional rights, injury, and in some cases fatal injury.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, as alleged herein both Chief Sargent and City Manager. Augustus observed and maintained a policy, practice, and usage of allowing de facto immunity to officers who physically abused or caused injury to persons in violation of their rights under the U.S. Constitution and he was at all pertinent times deliberately indifferent to the rights and safety of persons coming into contact with members of the WPD.
By their acts and omissions in response to repeated incidents of unnecessary police violence Chief Sargent and City Manager Augustus demonstrated deliberate indifference to the rights and safety of persons coming into contact with WPD officers.
Damn, as Sargent would say.
It is wild to read this complaint and then go back and look at the narrative crafted by the city administration in the days that followed this gruesome display.
Chief Sargent’s first comment was this:
"Yesterday I proudly joined the protest over the death of George Floyd and stood in solidarity with the protesters. The rioting that took place later in the evening was separate from the peaceful rally that I attended earlier. These individuals were not delivering a message but rather promoting violence. They were putting the citizens of our city at risk, along with our officers who came under attack. Our officers showed great restraint and professionalism as they restored order to the neighborhood while being assaulted. Violence is never the answer. Dialogue is. Together, we can move forward in an open and peaceful manner."
And Augustus had Sargent’s back:
"Unfortunately, after that protest, there was a small group not looking to share outrage about George Floyd, but bent on destruction and chaos. To the credit of the Worcester Police Department, they showed tremendous restraint. I look at that group much different than the protesters that held themselves very appropriately and admirably during the rally at City Hall."
The police quickly released a short and self-serving video, showing the early chaos of the incident and omitting the brutal force march that followed. They painted a scene of wild chaos at odds with reality and omitting the actions of police officers. When president of Clark University criticized the behavior of the Worcester Police Department, Sargent fired back:
“To act or make statements without facts is irresponsible and incendiary,” Sargent said in a statement issued Wednesday. “It is disappointing that Clark University would release a statement criticizing the way our officers handled the violent activity that happened hours after the peaceful rally in which I, along with members of our department and community, stood in solidarity.”
Of course, as the lawsuit shows, the police department did not release the extent of the “facts” and a whole lot of those “facts” were built on false reports anyway.
Clark University commissioned what they called an “independent investigation” carried out by Mike Angelini, Augustus’ personal attorney. As I wrote at the time:
So what we have here is a five-page investigation by two lawyers who were presumably paid a lot of money by the university to rewrite the cop's police report with a few gentle pokes at the cops, because you gotta do that to sound fair, I suppose. Here is the hardest the report goes on the 50 cops in riot gear who fired pepper-ball rounds, sponge-tip bullets and gas at a small group of demonstrators and also arrested 11 of them in varyingly violent fashions.
"Arrests are not polite events, but they should involve only those actions which accomplish them. Even in the situation described in this report, that standard applies. Actions taken during the arrests of the Clark students did not meet that standard."
At best, a little wrist slap.
That November, the City Council took the issue up by way of an order from Kate Toomey to make sure that when the cops use less-than-lethal munitions on people that someone come around afterward and pick up the shells. Surreal.
It’s been three years now and this lawsuit is the first attempt made at real accountability for the police’s nightmarish behavior that night.
Revisiting this incident in the context of this lawsuit just really goes to show that the cops relish in abusing people, and they’re sanctioned to do so by a department and a city administration which happily provides cover for their actions. All we’re left with is lawsuits like this one. It’s the only accountability we have. And when the city loses lawsuits like this, which they almost always do, it’s not the police who suffer. The whole city does. All those millions come out of the general fund, while the Police Department budget grows and grows and the overtime budget increases 20 percent year over year and almost all of the highest paid city workers are cops.
When the city inevitably loses this lawsuit, it’s residents who’ll suffer. Money which could have been better spent on some service or program will go to the law department’s “settlement” fund. It will likely be millions. But the cops will continue to get what they want. Do what they want. Nobody who matters cares.
Thank you for reading and for sticking with me all these years. I hope you liked this one. I busted ass on it.
Onto Year Four! Ah!! Talk soon!
Oh yeah also check it out. I got the Cafe Neo nod of approval on my birthday Friday!