WORCESTER, Mass. — A major victory over police brutality was scored here Nov. 9 when a jury found Estevan Nembhard, an African American youth organizer from New York City who had been severely beaten by Worcester police officers, not guilty on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
The case goes back to early November 2003, when Nembhard, the chair of the Harlem/
Washington Heights club of the Young Communist League USA, came to Worcester to attend a student leadership conference of mainly Black and Latino youth.
After an awards dinner and dance were forced to end early, people returned to their rooms in the Crowne Plaza Hotel to socialize. Hotel management said that the youth could not socialize in their rooms and called the police.
Many African American youth report that nationally the practice of hotel management is to shut down any parties of Black and Brown youth. Giving credence to this theory, the same night, there were a number of mainly white parties going on in the hotel rooms that were not bothered.
The police targeted Nembhard since he acted as a spokesperson for the group. They forced some of the students to leave. As he was walking away from the hotel, the officers chased him down.
“I got beaten up by the police,” Nembhard told the World. “I was leaving the premises in what I felt was basically a racist decision on their part, which was to kick us out of the hotel. So I was leaving, and they followed us out of the hotel, and then they came up to me and they started pushing me; they didn’t even tell me I was under arrest. They started pepper-spraying me, and then once I was handcuffed on the ground, one of them started kicking me in the face. My whole eye was messed up. It was all red, bloody; my face was messed up. People couldn’t even recognize me.”
Worcester has a history of police misconduct that often goes unpunished.
This time was different, though. Thanks to a coalition that formed around Nembhard’s case, the police were unable to sweep the case under the rug. Peace, student, and civil rights groups, the Communist Party, as well as other members of the community came together to defend Nembhard. Whenever he was brought to court, there were demonstrations outside.
At the trial, the police put together a poor case. Witnesses for the prosecution gave wildly differing stories. After meeting for only a short time, the jury, which was all white except for one person, came back with a unanimous decision of “not guilty” on all counts.
“I really want to thank my lawyer, Beverly Chorbajian, and everyone else who came together,” said Nembhard. “It was more than a victory for just me, though. It was a victory for all the people in Worcester who’ve been brutalized.”
The author can be reached at email@example.com.