We are a multiracial group of tenants who recognize and support the slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” We also believe workers struggles have no borders. Newly amplified calls for police abolition, based around the police murders of Adam Toledo, Daunte Wright, Ma’Khia Bryant, and locally the murder of Phet Gouvonvong Jr., as well as others who have not received national attention, have highlighted the need for the Tenant and Housing Alliance of Worcester (THAW) to affirm our solidarity with the police abolitionist movement and highlight the necessity of connecting tenant organizing with abolitionist organizing.
The origins of policing in this country are well documented. In the South, as early as the 17th century, local governments sanctioned armed slave patrols with the authority to apprehend anybody that was suspected of being or abetting an escaped slave. These slave patrols served to protect the illegitimate property claims that white slave owners held over African people.
In the North, the industrial revolution led to simultaneous rises in urbanization and class stratification. Increased numbers of working class people living in the same place, coupled with degrading working and living conditions led to spontaneous rebellions and strike actions. Factory and other private property owners (i.e. capitalists) sought to bring the labor force back under control with private security forces, eventually these private security forces/strikebreakers became codified/professionalized as municipal police forces.
Today, some people are quick to defend the police, suggesting that their “serve and protect” mantra, along with liberal reforms like use of force and implicit bias trainings, mean that the police have evolved from their anti-Black, anti-working class roots into an effective force for the provision of community safety. However, one must look no farther than the actions of the police to determine that they are still fundamentally both anti-black and anti-working class. In Worcester, cops routinely over-police poor, non-White neighborhoods, singling residents of those neighborhoods out for violence, even though evidence does not support a correlation between increased police presence and increased community safety. Worcester’s police department leeches city money that would be better spent directly improving the conditions of people who live in the city. Worcester Police are receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars per day from Tenet Healthcare in order to maintain a presence around the St. Vincent’s nurses’ strike. Their presence only serves to intimidate and harass strikers and community members. And as soon as eviction moratoriums are lifted, police will be on hand to forcibly remove working class people from their homes.
As long as police forces exist, they will serve to protect private property through threats of violence at the cost of poor and racially oppressed people. THAW stands in solidarity with the families of Black, Asian, Latino, Indigenous and White workers who were murdered by the police across this country, and more recently in our city. We write this statement in solidarity as we continue our fight against evictions and greedy landlords and for tenants’ power.
Originally published May 1st, 2021