Black and Latinx activists marched to the Massachusetts State House on Monday to advocate for communities of color, who they say are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis and the state’s reopening plans.
The group said it represents about 50 organizations in Boston, including the local chapter of Latinx organization Mijente and the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition.
The group gathered outside of steakhouse Davio’s on the corner of Arlington and Stuart Street surrounding a black chair painted with the words: “essential workers have no seat at the table.”
“The location is significant,” organizer Vero Navarro said in an interview, noting that the chief executive of the restaurant — Steve DiFillippo — serves on the Massachusetts Reopening Advisory Board. “Decisions to reopen are rooted in profit.”
Navarro said employees of color will be disproportionately ordered to return to work in the state’s reopening plans, while others continue to stay at home.
“A lot of folks who can work from home are white, but not all of us have that privilege,” she said. “Essential workers will not be guinea pigs.”
Al Vega, who works for the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health said essential workers have been calling his group’s safety hotline, concerned about not having enough personal protective equipment or social distancing in place at work.
“Our governor is asking the Black and Latino workers to sacrifice themselves for the economy,” he said in front of Davio’s. “We are here to honor the dead, but fight like hell for the living.”
The procession encompassed roughly 20 cars — some adorned with fake coffins — that traveled from Davio’s to the State House.
As the group passed Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden, dozens of people nearby stood along Charles Street to observe the procession. Andover resident Lynne Aslanian said she overheard the car horns as she walked through the Common to view the Memorial Day decorations.
“I think today is the perfect day to do it — with this pandemic we need to unite and help everybody,” she said. “It was very emotional today walking through the park, but when I saw everyone here, it was reassuring that we are all trying to come out and respect one another today.”
When the demonstrators reached Beacon Street, they parked their cars and carried the painted chair and one of the coffins to the steps in front of the State House. The coffin read, “honor the dead, protect the living,” and demonstrators surrounded it with several bouquets of flowers and posters.
About 30 people participated in the demonstration, and it was livestreamed on social media for those who could not attend.
“We believe it is happening too quickly,” organizer Armani White said of the state’s reopening plans. “We cannot have business as usual.”