Discover more from Worcester Sucks and I Love It
It's The Bugs all the way down
Kearney arrested, cop awarded, cop abuses described, the City Council remains useless
In the first few minutes of Paul Verhoeven’s prescient 1997 masterpiece “Starship Troopers,” a United Citizen Federation spaceship grazes an asteroid. Just fodder for an early action scene. Later in the first act, an asteroid hits Buenos Aires, killing millions, and it is taken without question as an act of war by a far-off bug species on a planet the United Citizen Federation is actively colonizing—the inciting event of the movie, and the cause of all the bloodshed to come. From the news anchors on down to the grunts at the heart of the film, the fact of this being an act of war is taken for granted. The Bugs Send The Rock. Must Kill The Bugs. There is no consideration it could have been anything else. It prompts a massive escalation of military action, which everyone finds exciting. The collision that starts the movie goes unaddressed.
There’s a “fan theory” I read recently that the asteroid bumped by the ship is the same asteroid that hits Buenos Aires. The collision slightly changed its course, making the eventual impact on Earth a simple twist of fate. That this “fan theory” is so in keeping with the subtle critique of the film makes me feel it’s not much of a theory at all. It’s just the art of Verhoeven’s satire.
The society depicted in the film was so hungry for violence that it made them blind. From the moment of impact, it was bugs. It had to be. The tragedy was processed first and foremost as justification to go killing bugs again.
What Verhoeven put down in that movie becomes more prescient every day. The Bugs in his America have nothing on The Bugs of real life America. Brilliant as he was, he couldn’t have foreseen we figured out a way to maintain The Bugs without The Troops. The Bugs need not exist anywhere but the TV. The violence ushered by the spectacle of The Bugs is irrelevant and invisible, so long as we know it’s happening. This is useful, in a fiduciary sense, to those who profit off the violence.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
For some exceptionally bad advice on how to post about The Current Situation, check Shaun Connolly’s latest column. Certain of our local officials and candidates have been quite stunning in this regard.
Anyway, on to Worcester business! As interesting as some of it was, it all seems rather pointless. None of what happened is a particularly big deal, but in light of the overall climate, it inspired an especially acute dread in putting it together, and so I decided to frame it around the dread. Please subscribe if you like the weird way I write about this city. I’m very proud and humbled that so many of you volunteer to do so.
Before we get to the serious stuff, I have a pitch I’d like to share for a future I Think You Should Leave episode.
Just goofin around! The sketch is basically a word-for-word transcript of a video capturing Aidan Kearney’s “perp walk” yesterday. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
While my brain just cannot process the substance of what led to Kearney’s arraignment, it is at least in line with the long, long pattern of abusive sociopathy on which Kearney’s made his name.
Fun fact for people who haven’t been around a while: For a long time, Kearney was the “anonymous” voice of Turtleboy Sports, and back then he was mostly focused on Worcester. Everyone knew it was him but he denied it and there wasn’t much proof. When I started at Worcester Magazine way back when, undoing that anonymity was a first order of business. With the help of the Wayback Machine, I got him good in 2017. Shortly after, he “came out” by way of a deranged self-published book. For this I was rewarded with years of Turtleboy Sports posts about me, and the nickname “Buttmunch Billy,” which I still cherish. The best one in my opinion is a tirade of a post triggered by my responding “who cares” to his challenge to “debate me.” Lol. What a fun time. I do wish there wasn’t an article floating around with the libelous assertion I was fired from the Telegram. But that ranks very low on the list of instances in which Kearney used SEO to punish people. The punishment is very much the point, and it’s exactly what seems to have landed him in legal trouble. He’s charged with some eight counts of witness intimidation, and there’s good reason to believe more charges may follow.
“The subject advanced”
As if cosmically aligned, Worcester officer Paul Cyr was awarded a Hanna Award Medal of Honor—the highest honor for police in the state—just a day before a local forum on the abuses of the Worcester Police Department was held at Worcester State.
On the night of Tuesday, April 20, 2021, Worcester Police Officer Paul Cyr, a patrol officer and member of the Department’s SWAT team, responded to a man who reported that he was carrying a large bomb and guns. Cyr arrived on scene to find the man on the phone, walking along Grafton Street, carrying a very large backpack and a rifle slung over his shoulder.
In his conversation with a dispatcher, the man communicated his desire to go to the police station with the bomb. He also said that he could not disarm the bomb because it was wired to his heart and would detonate if his heart stopped.
Officer Cyr assumed a position close to where the subject was walking to interrupt his movement and began (sic) negotiating a peaceful surrender. After establishing a rapport, Cyr successfully asked the man to stop moving, which allowed other officers to assume a safe position, contain the threat, and evacuate nearby residents. Cyr continued to engage the subject who, despite erratic changes in mood and demeanor, eventually agreed to sit down and stop advancing toward the thickly settled residential area.
After hours of ongoing negotiations, the subject became upset again and began making death threats against officers and civilians. Officers could see a detonator switch on the subject’s hand that they suspected he would use to explode a bomb.
The subject then told Officer Cyr that he planned to walk to a nearby gas station. Cyr recognized that an explosion at such a location would kill and injure many officers and civilians. Despite law enforcement’s pleas for the man to stay put, the subject advanced forcing Cyr to discharge weapon (sic).
Sympathetic as I am to the difficulty of the situation that night, the fact stands that the police response was to kill. It’s one thing to come to the conclusion such a response was appropriate and an entirely different thing to reward it as heroism. The “subject,” as Healey put it, did not “advance” very far before catching a bullet to the head. There’s video, and I watched it, but wouldn’t suggest you do the same.
“Does everybody realize we need the fuckin cops?”
After seeing the news of this very Verhoevian honor bestowed upon Cyr by our Democratic Governor, I went to a forum Tuesday night at Worcester State University titled “The Collapse of Discipline: The Consequences of Failed Leadership at the Worcester Police Department.” Moderated by Tom Marino, a panel went through a laundry list of garish disciplinary cases and presented all manner of damning facts and figures. Stuff like the fact there were 86 use-of-force complaints against officers under former Chief Sargent’s tenure and the department’s Bureau of Professional Standards sustained precisely zero of them.
Most interestingly, though, the forum featured two people personally subjected to nightmarish treatment at the hands of the Worcester Police Department—Natale Cosenza, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 16 years, and Christopher Ayala, wrongly charged for assaulting a police officer.
Ayala, a DACA recipient, faced deportation had the police’s case gone forward, he said. His arrest was connected to the “Beer Garden brawl” in 2019. The cops said he assaulted a police officer. The day after the incident, he got security camera footage that showed the police’s account was at odds with reality. Really, it was the cops who assaulted him. It still took some eight months for the police to drop the case.
Cosenza asked Ayala how it felt in those months after his arrest.
“I couldn’t go outside,” he said.
Cosenza then told the long story of his arrest, trial and imprisonment. The detectives who brought charges against him used spurious tactics that suggest they weren’t all that concerned with whether they had the right guy, so long as they had a guy. One of the detectives, Kerry Hazelhurst, is still on the force. In the civil lawsuit that Cosenza won last year, the city attempted to argue that they weren’t liable because the detectives’ behavior was so at odds with what detectives are supposed to do.
“I still don’t understand where... I gotta figure out how to word this correctly... just basically, the city’s not responsible but he’s still allowed to work for the police department,” Cosenza said.
But after telling his story, he changed course rather abruptly.
“Does everybody realize we need the fuckin cops? What’s gonna… ‘Defund the Police’? What the hell are we gonna do when we need a cop? Instead of defunding, how about we put the funding into training?”
It is deeply heavy that someone who had his life objectively ruined by the police took it upon himself to affirm his commitment to the narrative that exists to neuter real police reform. I watched in real time as he transitioned from his personal story to stale and bad faith talking points that mischaracterize “Defund The Police.”
That this person, who’s personally felt the subtle and corrosive violence of the police force more than most people, couldn’t bring himself to see past a bad-faith media narrative ... it was heavy. As a local activist began to challenge him, and an argument was brewing, I quickly packed up and left. This was a regular guy, who spoke honestly and with conviction about the injustice he suffered, feeling like he needed to speak out against “Defund the Police” as the bogeyman most media made it out to be.
To see a picture of the governor draping a medal over the neck of a man who killed someone, then go to a forum where a heart-wrenching story from a wrongly imprisoned man was concluded by a tirade on how the public is too hard on police officers... Gotta say it was pretty Verhoevian.
Are they even concerned?
There’s quite a bit to unpack from the quietly arranged “special meeting” of the City Council Tuesday afternoon. Called for the sole purpose of putting an end to the question of whether the Worcester Ballpark Commission should exist, the council’s messy way of handling things was on full display before they ultimately voted 8-1 against City Manager Eric Batista’s proposal to eliminate the commission. While Batista’s reasons for seeking an end to the commission were clearly spelled out, the council’s reasons for keeping it were... vague at best.
As pointed out in city reports and comments made by Councilor Khrystian King, the Ballpark Commission is simply not working. It meets rarely, it doesn’t fulfill its duties, and the promises for “community events” at Polar Park it’s charged with providing are just not happening. The commission is responsible for overseeing the “event days” promised in the lease between the city and the team. There are supposed to be eight “city revenue events,” 10 “community days” and 15 “civic and public meetings” a year, according to an August report from the City Manager’s office. There have been only three event days. These community events were central to the sales pitch that Polar Park was worth the massive amount of public money it took to build it. The promise is going remarkably unfulfilled. The Manager’s proposal, to his credit, was an attempt to fix that problem.
But the majority of the City Council refused to accept that the commission could be the issue. The most vocal advocates were Councilors Candy Mero-Carlson, Moe Bergman and George Russell, as well as Mayor Joe Petty. Whatever problems there might be, the commission should be allowed to continue on as is, they argued. It’s just a “rocky start.” They’ll figure it out. But will they? And does the majority of the council even care if they do? It’s an open question.
“We have a group of people here who volunteer, who are not being paid, and they want to do a good job,” Petty said.
Left with rather thin policy arguments like that, it’s worth looking at who sits on the commission. There are seven members. Former City Solicitor David Moore is the chairman, and he’s joined by John Harrity, Jose Perez, Elaine Evans, Thomas Maloney, Eddy Fisher and Meg Mulhern.
Of the seven, five have donated money to Joe Petty’s campaign (Moore, Harrity, Evans, Fisher, Mulhern). Two donated to Mero-Carlson’s campaign (Perez, Maloney). One donated to Bergman’s (Fisher).
We’re talking small amounts here. No more than a few hundred dollars in any instance. But “who donates to who” is as decent a data point as any to demonstrate allegiances. The campaign finance data shows us the commission is staffed by supporters of the councilors who most vocally defended it. There’s a motivation to be considered here that has little to do with whether the commission works or not. And given that the commission is very obviously not working, the motivation becomes significant. Rather than support a solution proposed by the City Manager, these councilors opted to deny the problem.
I’d highly suggest reading Nicole Apostola’s recent post on the failure of the Ballpark Commission. It’s a thorough and damning account. She concludes:
It doesn’t take a lot of time or brainpower to come up with questions to ask the WooSox or city administration about the state of the ballpark. It does, however, require a fortitude that few of our elected officials currently possess.
While an apt observation, I’d argue that “fortitude” isn’t quite the right word for what they’re lacking. More than anything what we’re seeing here is a council that was never quite concerned with the “community benefit” that was promised and remains committed to that ambivalence. It’s not that they have a concern and lack the fortitude to express it. They aren’t concerned. At the tail end of the meeting, they really told on themselves in this regard.
When the city and the team renegotiate the lease after five years, it’s unclear whether the “community day” commitment will be included. Shortly before the meeting ended, King made a motion to direct the city manager to make sure it’s in the new lease. Without any comment, the council voted the motion down on the same 8-1 lines. They were obviously voting against Khrystian more than they were voting on the merit of the motion. And in doing so they kept the question of whether the park will host community events in the future an open one. Hard to take seriously the idea that they care.
And not once through all this did the “low clearance” issue come up, despite being such an obvious source of the problem. One of the big “community events” promises was concerts, and that would have been great! A fun and easy way to fulfill the promise of events they made to the public. But concerts can’t happen because the design of the park prohibits them. It was modeled so closely after Fenway that the tunnel to access the outfield is too short for trucks to get through. And that makes the ordeal of setting up a proper concert stage so expensive it’s not worth it. At Fenway, they have an elaborate and expensive work-around involving construction cranes. For a sold out James Taylor show in a 36,000 capacity venue, the cost is worth it. For the more mid-tier acts that a ~6,000 capacity concert venue like Polar Park could attract, the math isn’t there. So, no concerts.
That no one flagged the issue before they broke ground is itself a demonstration that the community benefit sales pitch was never a genuine concern. That the City Council can’t even mention it now, despite it being the obvious root cause of the problem, is all the more telling. Oy vey.
Odds and ends
Thanks for reading! Please consider a paid subscription. It’s only 1.5 Dunkies a month.
Some personal news: Next week I’ll be embarking on a 100-day journey to build out a vision for building out a larger alternative local media institution around Worcester Sucks! I got accepted to the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program of the Newmark Journalism School at CUNY. As one of 23 people in this cohort (from alllll around the world!), I got accepted on the merit of Rewind Video Store (@rewindvideostore) and the Worcester Community Media Foundation. So that’s what I’ll be working on!
Speaking of—there’s a soft launch event for the store at 4 p.m. tomorrow. See you there!
Ok, much to do on that front today. Talk soon!