Thousands protest peacefully during police brutality rally
BOSTON (AP) — Chanting “no justice, no peace” and “black lives matter,” thousands of people peacefully demonstrated in a Boston park Tuesday to protest police brutality against black people.
The racially diverse rally began with a “die-in” where protesters knelt and sat in a major intersection, halting traffic for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. That’s the amount of time a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee onto George Floyd’s neck, leading to his death last week, according to prosecutors.
The crowd then marched across Franklin Park, the city’s largest park and home to a popular zoo, waving signs that read “STOP KILLING US” and “White Silence = White Consent.”
Boston police reported the main protest ended peacefully, and, as the night wore on, groups continued to march through the city, gathering outside police headquarters, a subway station and at the Statehouse steps downtown.
Police officers at times knelt in solidarity with the protesters, and the department on its Twitter account urged protesters to “remain respectful, responsible and committed to safety.”
In Brockton, a city south of Boston with a large black population, police used tear gas and pepper spray to break up protesters rallying in front of the police station as they hurled bottles and other objects at officers.
Smaller demonstrations also took place in the Boston suburbs of Quincy and Watertown. As in the Boston rally, many wore masks to protect themselves and each other from the coronavirus, which has hit Massachusetts hard, with more than 7,000 deaths.
Organizers of Tuesday’s rally in Boston, which included the local chapter of Black Lives Matter, had pleaded with protesters to remain peaceful after similar demonstrations on Sunday became violent as the main demonstrations ended downtown.
People plundered stores, smashed windows, scrawled graffiti across public monuments and set fire to a police cruiser. The National Guard was called in to help quell the unrest.
Fifty-three people were arrested and nine officers were hospitalized.
Monday evening saw more subdued protests in Boston, as peaceful demonstrations took place in neighborhoods miles from downtown, where police had stepped up their presence to deter further violence.
But in Worcester, Massachusetts, New England’s second largest city, 19 people were arrested Monday night after violence broke out following mostly peaceful protests, police said Tuesday.
A group of about 50 to 70 people lit fires, vandalized structures, blocked downtown traffic and pelted officers with glass bottles, rocks, concrete and fireworks, the department said.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who is prosecuting those arrested Sunday in Boston, said Tuesday that ten defendants have so far been arraigned but dozens of cases are still pending because the court has imposed new safeguards in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and other Massachusetts politicians also outlined a series of steps they say is needed to confront systemic racism.
Pressley is among the House lawmakers that have proposed a resolution calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to reassert its authority to investigate racial profiling and police brutality.
Some state lawmakers, meanwhile, are seeking limits on police use of force, including chokeholds and other tactics with potentially deadly consequences, among other measures.
“What you are seeing is the pain of black folks that has been delegitimized for far too long,” Pressley said on the Massachusetts Statehouse steps. “The only thing we seek to destroy and to actively dismantle is systemic racism.”
Associated Press writers Bill Kole and Steve LeBlanc contributed to this story.