Protesters on Boston Common meet to reject police brutality
BOSTON (AP) — Protesters gathered on Boston Common on Wednesday to again denounce police brutality against people of color, as authorities mopped up after violent demonstrations overnight in a restive suburb.
Black Lives Matter called for more peaceful protesting aimed at ending white-on-black brutality like the deadly arrest of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
Demonstrators began to come together on the Common at about 3:30 p.m.
They cheered after learning that prosecutors have expanded their case against the police who were at the scene of Floyd’s death, charging three with aiding and abetting a murder and upgrading the charges against the officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck to second-degree murder.
The protesters also listened to speeches and held signs reading ““White Silence=Violence,” “I Can’t Breath,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “No Justice, No Peace.”
Members of the National Guard and Boston police officers carrying sticks and riot gear were standing at a distance from the protesters.
Many of the protesters — black, white, young and older — were also wearing masks in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Thousands protested peacefully Tuesday night in Boston’s Franklin Park, staging a “die-in” and chanting “no justice, no peace.” Police officers at times knelt in solidarity with the racially diverse crowd.
Things took a violent turn Tuesday night in Brockton, a city south of Boston with a large black population, where 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. The unrest followed a peaceful rally at a middle school.
“I share the anger of our citizens at police misconduct across the United States, but I’m saddened that some chose violence and vandalism,” Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan said in a statement. “We cannot let a few violent acts overshadow the powerful message of peace.”
Protesters rushed to the aid of a Boston Globe reporter who was hit in the face with pepper spray as police pushed back the crowd. State police were called after demonstrators began pelting Brockton officers with bottles and fireworks.
Gov. Charlie Baker acknowledged the protests at a Wednesday press conference saying “thousands and thousands of people are making their voices heard and taking a stand against the violence and injustice that befalls the black community every day across this country.”
“There were moments of tension and raw emotion. People shared their pain and frustration. They shared their agony and their anger over the injustice that pervades our nation. It was hard to watch at times,” Baker added, decrying the “cowards and criminals” who tried to injure police and destroy property.
Baker said he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito have talked in recent days with members of the black and Latino community, elected officials, clergy members and public safety officials about ways to enhance transparency and accountability across the Massachusetts law enforcement system.
Baker also acknowledged the challenge of holding protests during a pandemic given the need to remain six feet apart from each other, wear masks in public, and avoid large gatherings.
“We understand this guidance is in conflict with assembling to exercise First Amendment rights,” Baker said. “We ask everyone to balance the fight against the virus with the fight for what we as individuals believe in.”
Also Wednesday, a Worcester man was arrested and charged with civil disorder and possession of a Molotov cocktail during a demonstration in Worcester on Monday.
Vincent Eovacious, 18, was charged with civil disorder for attempting to obstruct or interfere with law enforcement officers and unlawful possession of firearm — a destructive device — according to United States Attorney Andrew Lelling.
Eovacious was arrested after being released on bond following state charges, including possession of an incendiary device. He will appear in federal court in Worcester on Thursday.