Worcester police arrested 19 people Monday night in an alleged violent outburst which included an attack on police officers following an earlier, peaceful protest in which demonstrators spoke out against the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, authorities said.
In a statement Tuesday, Worcester police said the 19 people were arrested on charges including disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and receiving stolen property. One suspect, 18-year-old Vincent Eovarious, was apprehended for allegedly bringing Molotov cocktails to the scene and attempted arson, police said.
In a press release, police said a peaceful protest held on Worcester Common and attended by Police Chief Steven M. Sargent concluded around 8:30 p.m. Monday. Officials said the attendees went home, and the trouble started later.
“At approximately 9:45 PM, Worcester Police officers observed a separate, unruly crowd of about fifty to seventy people in the area of Portland and Federal Street,” the statement said. “Individuals in this group had thrown glass bottles at police cruisers, and they walked to Main St and began to block traffic. The mood was violent and chaotic. Officers followed the group and blocked off Main St traffic to keep vehicles from driving into the crowd as it walked south on Main St.”
The statement said the crowd “began throwing objects at the police. One officer was struck in the head with a piece of concrete, and others were struck with rocks. Other individuals started shooting fireworks and Roman candles at the officers. An officer was struck in the chest by fireworks, which burned his uniform and skin.”
The neighborhood, police said, “was filled with smoke from fires intentionally set by members of the crowd. A police cruiser caught on fire after being hit with a Roman candle, and others were damaged by various items thrown. Several buildings were vandalized and numerous cars drove at the officers assembled in the street. Dumpsters were lit on fire and pushed toward officers in an attempt to injure them."
Among those arrested were four students at Clark University, whose campus on Main Street is not far from where the violence occurred.
Clark president David P. Angel announced the students’ arrests in a letter to the school community in which he also condemned the action of Worcester police.
“We do not at this time know the full circumstances or details of these events," Angel wrote in the letter that was also signed by incoming president David B. Fithian. "What we do know is that the police actions we have witnessed are unacceptable and a source of dismay to all within our community,” he wrote. “We share the anger and concern over these actions.”
The private university will discontinue its use of off-duty Worcester police officers and suspending their policy requiring a police officer at large student events.
A Worcester police spokesman did not immediately have a response to the Clark president’s letter Tuesday night.
During a press briefing Tuesday, Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus said he was disappointed by Angel’s statement.
“I had a conversation with him early this morning and I urged him to make sure that the saw the full breadth of information that was readily available,” he said. “In that statement, he acknowledged he didn’t know all the details and yet he still took actions based on not knowing all the details, which I think is a mistake.”
Clark did not identify its students who were arrested.
Court records show Eovarious was arraigned Tuesday on charges of possession of explosives, attempt to burn a building, and attempt to commit a crime. A not guilty plea was entered on Eovarious’s behalf, and he was ordered held on $5,000 cash bail. His lawyer declined to comment.
Eovarious, a police report said, was “screaming and inciting the [crowd] to kill Police.”
According to the report, an officer asked Eovarious "who he was with and he stated he was with the anarchist group,” the report said. “ ... I asked the male what was in the glass bottles, and he replied ‘gasoline.' The male also spontaneously stated that he was waiting for an opportunity.”
At the press briefing, Augustus said the violence followed a peaceful protest attended by himself and other city officials.
“That protest was exactly what you’d want to see In a healthy, thriving democracy where people get their voices heard and get their very legitimate concerns aired,” he said. What we saw from 9:30 until 1:30 in the morning was vandalism, was people who were acting in a way that was completely inconsistent with that peaceful protest that we saw earlier.
Augustus’s words were echoed by his police chief.
“The rioting that took place later in the evening was separate from the peaceful rally that I attended earlier,” Sargent said in the statement issued by police. "These individuals were not delivering a message but rather promoting violence. ... Violence is never the answer. Dialogue is. Together, we can move forward in an open and peaceful manner.”
John R. Ellement and Emily Sweeney of the Globe Staff contributed to this story. Material from the Associated Press was used.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.