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Demonstrators returned to Boston streets, but downtown was quiet after nightfall

‘That knee has been on our back since we arrived here, since the African diaspora.’

Prophetic Resistance lead organizer Danielle Williams (center) and Keila Price, of Grove Hall (right) took a knee during a peaceful demonstration on Monday.
Prophetic Resistance lead organizer Danielle Williams (center) and Keila Price, of Grove Hall (right) took a knee during a peaceful demonstration on Monday.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Twenty-four hours after Boston was rocked with violence and looting, downtown streets were largely deserted Monday night, save for a heavy presence of police and the Massachusetts National Guard, as protests against police killings of Black Americans continued locally and across the nation.

Where protesters had clashed with police, there was only the occasional jogger, skateboarder, or worker hammering plywood boards over plate-glass windows — alongside helmeted police and National Guardsmen in combat fatigues and tactical gear who patrolled city streets for looters and vandals.

People took a knee during a 30-minute silent vigil for Black Lives Matter at the Holy Name Rotary in West Roxbury.
People took a knee during a 30-minute silent vigil for Black Lives Matter at the Holy Name Rotary in West Roxbury. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

A section of downtown adjacent to the former Combat Zone — the city’s red light district from the 1960s to the 1990s — looked like a scene from a nation under siege.

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Windows were boarded at the AMC Boston Common movie theater. Outside Macy’s sat an olive-green Humvee marked Military Police. Boston officers in riot helmets wielding wooden clubs stood outside a Chase Bank branch as sporadic rain fell over downtown.

State Police were assisting Boston police “in maintaining order and preventing crime" on Monday night, a State Police spokesman said in a statement.

Outside of the city, Braintree police posted “a heavy police presence” at the South Shore Plaza on Monday in response to social media posts about looting the mall, the department said on Twitter.

“The mall is now closed. Anyone on the property without a legitimate reason will be asked to leave & possible tresspass [sic],” Braintree police said in a tweet. “Do not come down here.”

After the earlier peaceful Sunday protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, rioters damaged property and looted in Boston stores.
After the earlier peaceful Sunday protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, rioters damaged property and looted in Boston stores.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The FBI’s Boston office on Monday said it was looking for people responsible for the violence in Boston.

“We are committed to apprehending and charging violent instigators who are exploiting legitimate, peaceful protests and engaging in violations of federal law,” the agency said in a statement.

And local leaders denounced the small fraction of protesters responsible for Sunday night’s vandalism, looting, and physical clashes with police, and pledged their support for peaceful protest and the cause of racial justice.

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“We believe in activism and free speech. We believe in protecting that right, and we believe in peace, so we want to keep our city safe,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Monday at an event he hosted with Attorney General Maura Healey to pledge their commitment to structural change on race. “We should not let last night’s violence distract us from George Floyd’s memory and what his memory means, or any of countless other people that have been murdered.”

Miles from downtown, demonstrators gathered peacefully Monday for a third night of demonstrations.

Peaceful demonstration in Boston to honor George Floyd
In a peaceful demonstration, a crowd knelt for 9 minutes to mark the time George Floyd spent pinned to the ground as a police officer knelt on his neck. (Video: Anush Elbakyan/Globe Staff, Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)

In Grove Hall, a crowd of about 40 people gathered at 7 p.m. on a traffic island in the middle of Blue Hill Avenue for a peaceful demonstration to honor Floyd and other Black victims of police violence — and to condemn President Trump.

The event was organized by Prophetic Justice, a group whose leaders said they are focused on criminal justice reform and other issues important to communities of color in Boston.

The crowd knelt for 9 minutes to mark the time Floyd spent pinned to the ground as a police officer knelt on his neck.

“As a community, we are tired. As people of color, we are tired of the oppressor keeping their knee on our necks,” said Pastor Eduardo Yarde of Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Mattapan.

As they knelt, members of the crowd of mostly Black demonstrators called out the names of other Black victims of police brutality and vigilante violence, including Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice.

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“We are kneeling with power right now. We are kneeling because this is our way . . . of being with all those who are suffering,” said the Rev. Edwin Johnson of St. Mary’s Church in Dorchester.

Johnson also called out the names of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party and police, those whom he said “are afraid to see us fully alive.”

“In my heart I have pity on them,” he said.

Several pastors who spoke said Trump had played a role in provoking racial violence.

“We don’t have the leadership in the White House; there is no moral compass,” said the Rev. Joseph Rocha, of Grace Community Church in Roxbury.

“That knee has been on our back since we arrived here, since the African diaspora,” he said.

As the hourlong event continued, people stopped along both sides of Blue Hill Avenue to watch and cheer. Cars honked as they drove past.

“Black lives really do matter!” yelled a driver as he drove past.

IIvy Bailey, 9, of West Roxbury and her mom, Tiffany Ormon, took part in a 30-minute silent vigil for Black Lives Matter at the Holy Name Rotary in West Roxbury.
IIvy Bailey, 9, of West Roxbury and her mom, Tiffany Ormon, took part in a 30-minute silent vigil for Black Lives Matter at the Holy Name Rotary in West Roxbury. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

On Monday afternoon, hundreds gathered in West Roxbury for a Black Lives Matter vigil at the traffic rotary outside Holy Name Parish and the neighborhood police station.

Nearly all wore masks and many held handmade signs with messages like “Black Lives Matter” and “End Racism Now.”

On the cool, breezy evening, families who knew each other, many with kids on bikes or in strollers, greeted one another excitedly after not being together for weeks because of social distancing. As cars drove around the circle, many honked in support of those holding signs.

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“Yes, we’re honoring George Floyd, and his life, but it’s also about the bigger picture. It’s about the police abuse of power and about how everyone’s life has value,” said Andrea Gonzalez, 18. “Bias can be deadly.”

Most people in the crowd were white. They said they felt it was important to show solidarity with Black victims of racial injustice in their primarily white, middle-class neighborhood.

“If I can use my privilege to do something about it, I will,” said Judith Boggie, 15, of West Roxbury, who held a sign that said “No justice, no peace.”

Nearby, Emily Restivo, 36, of West Roxbury stood directly across from the police station and held up a sign that said “West Roxbury use your privilege and power for love.”

Restivo, who teaches third grade, said it has been difficult to explain to her Black and brown students how to stay safe, and to explain to her white students how to be allies.

“It’s hard in a community like ours,” she said. “We get a lot of colorblindness at the least and ‘blue lives matter’ at the most."

Holding a sign won’t fix the big problems facing this country, she said, “but it’s what we can do now.”

Boston Police officers rode by on motorcycles during a 30-minute silent vigil for Black Lives Matter.
Boston Police officers rode by on motorcycles during a 30-minute silent vigil for Black Lives Matter. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

A few police officers stood near the station and around the circle to monitor the gathering, but there was no confrontation. At one point, a group of officers rode through the circle on motorcycles. Police had put up metal barriers to block demonstrators from standing on the lawn outside the station.

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After about 45 minutes, the crowds at the traffic circle dispersed.

In Worcester, an enormous crowd gathered downtown around 6 p.m. for a solidarity protest that began peacefully but, like Boston’s Sunday demonstrations, ended in violence.

Police officials estimated that more than 1,000 people attended the rally.

Late Monday, police in riot gear formed a dense line across Main Street and faced off with a small crowd of people, pushing them gradually up the street, according to local media reporting from the scene. Photos show fireworks and flares erupting and helmeted officers in heavy boots advancing down a street.

A reporter for WHDH-TV said on Twitter that the window of a police cruiser was shattered and tweeted a short video showing EbLens Streetwear & Sneakers was being looted.

Before the violence, Worcester police officers took a knee alongside protesters, photos show.

A police spokesman could not be reached early Tuesday morning.

More than an hour after the West Roxbury vigil ended, a few people remained in the area, holding signs and waving to cars. Others made their way home, some holding hands with their kids.

Meanwhile, signs of the tension around the continuing protests were evident. Many stores up and down West Roxbury’s Centre Street, and as far away as Roslindale Square, had placed plywood boards over their windows — unwilling to take any chances after Sunday’s events downtown.

At the Green T Coffee Shop on Walter Street, a man began removing plywood from the windows around 7:45 p.m. On Corinth Street, windows were boarded at Sullivan’s Pharmacy, and across the street a sign in the window at the Tremont Credit Union read, “Sorry for the inconvenience. But we closed at 3:45 because of the protest."

Andy Rosen, David Abel, and Vernal Coleman of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Globe correspondents Stephanie Purifoy and Abby Feldman also contributed.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox. Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.