Hundreds of supporters raised their hands on Boston Common Thursday and joined in a national moment of silence to remember Michael Brown Jr., an unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.
The sea of hands at the vigil, which was organized as one of over 100 expected demonstrations across the US, also contained posters saying, “We Are Human Too,” “No Justice No Peace,” and “Stop the Brutality.”
The Boston gathering -- part of the National Moment of Silence for Victims of Police Brutality -- was held at about 7 p.m. in response to the fatal shooting of Brown on Saturday, and to the riots and violence in Ferguson that have erupted in the incident’s wake.
Since the 18-year-old’s death, protesters in Ferguson have clashed with heavily armed police officers. Stores have been looted, buildings have been burned, and property has been vandalized.
In the shadow of the State House, Tanisha Milton, 37, sat atop the Boston Common steps holding a sign that said, “DON’T SHOOT!”
Milton said she was afraid for her 19-year-old son in light of the recent violence. Referencing Brown, she said, “He could be my son.
“I’m out here to let the people in Ferguson know that we’re here,” she said. “The people in Boston care.”
After about 400 attendees participated in the moment of silence, speakers climbed the steps and enthused the crowd with stories of oppression and brutality at the hands of the authorities. Many spoke of family members who had been gunned down by police in Boston and elsewhere.
Earlier, attendees shouted out the names of those they believed to be victims of unjust killings.
They recited the names of Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, and others.
“Do we live in a genuinely democratic society?” a man asked from the steps. “No!” the crowd responded, overwhelmingly.
A handful of Boston police officers guarded the perimeters. An officer said it’s been “very peaceful.”
Protests in Ferguson escalated Wednesday night after Molotov Cocktails, bottles, and rocks were thrown at police. Authorities responded by using tear gas to disperse a group of about 150 civilians. Over 60 people have been arrested, including journalists, since Sunday.
Some crowd-control methods by authorities in the small St. Louis suburb, including tear gas and flash grenades, have been highly scrutinized and raised questions about police tactics. Local police have been seen in military gear with heavy artillery on armored trucks throughout the confrontations.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon made an announcement on Thursday that the Missouri State Highway Patrol will take over supervising security in Ferguson after the criticism of the local police response.
In Boston, Leondra Hawkesworth wore on her shirt the face of Danroy “DJ” Henry, a Pace University student from Easton who was shot to death by police in 2010.
“It becomes tiring and painful to see so many young black people killed,” said Hawkesworth, 24. “There’s no solution. There’s no justice being served.”
The crowd broke into chants: “Justice! For Mike Brown,” “No Justice! No Peace!”
Later on, Alexis Martinez, 28, took the megaphone to applause.
“Don’t come at me today telling that this is not about race,” she said. “That’s ... exactly what it’s about!”
Near the bottom of the steps, she hugged a friend, asking “when will it end?”
At times Thursday, a number of issues were addressed at the rally, including women’s rights and the need to stop black on black violence. Throughout the evening, speakers told the crowd to remember the history of blacks in the US and exhorted them to work to improve their communities.
Brittany Crawford, 25, of Roxbury, said some of the speakers were “too abrasive.” At times several used profanity and railed against the police.
“I don’t want us to be angry at the police,” she said. “I want us to work together”
Chrislene Dejean and a friend distributed fliers with tips from their Tumblr blog, the black body survival guide. A sheet of paper that said only #DontShoot made its way around earlier in the night.
Clay Brown, 23, said it was important for people to be aware of their rights with police. In his hometown of Brooklyn, Brown volunteered with a group that went around informing people in heavily policed neighborhoods.
“We need to ask, ‘What is the role of the police in our society?’ ” he said.