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Thousands in Boston protest peacefully to denounce killings of Black Americans

Thousands were on hand Tuesday night for a demonstration organized by Violence in Boston and Black Lives Matter Boston.
Thousands were on hand Tuesday night for a demonstration organized by Violence in Boston and Black Lives Matter Boston.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Thousands of demonstrators poured into Franklin Park on Tuesday evening to peacefully denounce the deaths of George Floyd and other Black people killed by police, in an emotional protest that included a dramatic stretch of silence to mark the time that Floyd was pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis police officer.

Though there were moments of tension that were quickly defused by protest organizers, by late Tuesday there appeared to be none of the mayhem that occurred Sunday after another day of peaceful protests. As of 11:59 p.m., Boston police said two arrests were made during the protests, including Cameron Gosselin, 34, of Weymouth, who was charged with assault and battery on a police officer, and Elliot Ficklin, 25, of Boston, charged with breaking and entering a commercial building.

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Protesters gather outside the State House Tuesday night
About 300 protesters reached downtown shortly after 9 p.m. Outside the State House, there were chants: “No justice, no peace!” and “George Floyd!” (Video by Caitlin Healy/Globe Staff, Photo by Erin Clark/Globe Staff)

The enormous protest marked the fourth night that people marched through city streets to speak out against racial inequality and policing.

“We came out because it’s finally clear that all people care — like white people care,” said Margaret Kiwanuka, of Dorchester. “For me as a Black person to see this many people come out, I feel like they are listening, and that’s hope.”

As she spoke, a swell of people came walking across the vast green landscape of the nearby golf course.

Kiwanuka came with her husband and daughter, Kalala, who said it was amazing to see “all the white people out.”

As news helicopters circled overhead, protesters gathered in the late afternoon at a sloping hill near the intersection of Franklin Park Road and Blue Hill Avenue, some holding signs that read “Hands up, Don’t Shoot,” and “Respect existence or expect resistance.”

There was a heavy presence of Boston police and Massachusetts State Police during the two-hour demonstration.

Monica Cannon-Grant, the founder of the community group Violence in Boston, which organized the demonstration in collaboration with Black Lives Matter Boston, told the crowd vandalism and violence would not be tolerated.

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Protesters stage a die in to protest the death of George Floyd
Protesters staged a die in at Franklin Park to protest the death of George Floyd. (Shelby Lum|Globe Staff)

“I want to be real clear about today. I’ve seen y’all with your spray paint and your fireworks,” Cannon-Grant said to hundreds before the march began. “This is our community. You will not come here and break up and tear up Black-owned businesses.”

The crowd cheered in agreement. “Don’t bring that here. If we catch you, it will be a problem,” she said.

Demonstrators streamed into the streets for a brief “die-in” that blocked traffic as participants reclined or took a knee at the intersection of Blue Hill Avenue and and Franklin Park Road. The die-in was intended to recall and highlight the nearly nine minutes that George Floyd spent under a police officer’s knee.

Protesters then marched nearly shoulder to shoulder toward Lemuel Shattuck Hospital chanting the names of Floyd and of other Black Americans killed by police, including Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician fatally shot in March by Louisville, Ky., officers executing a “no-knock” warrant at her home.

“These racist cops have got to go!” the marchers chanted.

Dominique Roseau, 36, of Taunton, said that as the mother of a 15-year-old Black son — who was too nervous to attend the rally — she came to represent all of those who have fallen at the hands of police.

“In order for us to make change it requires community, and people building relationships that make them uncomfortable so you can understand the struggle that Black parents and Black people as a whole experience daily,” said Roseau.

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Lula Mae Christopher of Boston came to celebrate the marchers — and protect them. She was one of a trio of women dressed in white, who burned incense and chanted as they passed a squad of arriving police.

With a staff and maraca, Christopher attempted to create a “sacred circle” around police, a ritual that traces back to the spiritual traditions of the Western Dagara Tribe of Burkina-Faso, she said.

“The intent is to let them know, and let their ancestors know, that they can do no harm here,” she said.

Even as the scheduled speakers began their remarks, hundreds of protesters continued to stream into the park, arriving from every direction.

Couples holding hands. Families hoisting signs. Teenagers on skateboards.

“I think I just felt like enough was enough,” said Vivian Kargbo, of Boston. “I’m raising a 13-year-old daughter, and my greatest fear is having her relive these dark emotions that I’m overcome with in a regular basis when I see a Black person killed with no justice.”

But she was encouraged, she said, by the turnout.

“When I see the people — all different ages, different nationalities — when I see everyone come together for the purpose of embracing this purpose? It reinforces the idea that there’s more good than bad,” Kargbo said.

As dusk fell and the rally ended, police cars rolled down Circuit Drive with their sirens wailing.

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The noise appeared to cause some panic in the crowd. Police cars tried to pass through the exiting crowd, but protesters blocked the way. It was not clear what had touched off the police response or caused the police to turn on their sirens.

Officers attempted to push back protesters with their bicycles, and chants began to echo: “Hey hey ho ho these racist cops have got to go.”

An organizer from Violence in Boston worked to calm the situation. “Guys, we need to get the police out of here,” he said, clearing the path so the police could back their cars out of Circuit Drive. Some protesters shouted obscenities.

Eventually, police made their way out of the commotion.

Officers walked down Circuit Drive as protesters watched and shouted at them. “Quit your job!” they chanted. One man shouted, “Bye bye! Exit stage left!”

As police left the street, the protesters followed behind them, cheering and singing, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye.” A few minutes later, heavy rain began to fall.

At Forest Hills Station, a large crowd surrounded officers. Protesters took to one knee and chanted “take a knee,” trying to get police to kneel with them.

Police officers take a knee in solidarity with protesters in Boston
Police officers took a knee alongside protesters after they converged at Forest Hills T Station following a rally and vigil at Franklin Park.

Some officers did take a knee at Forest Hills and at police headquarters to show solidarity with the protesters.

People began chanting the names of Black victims who have died at the hands of police, and followed police as they walked closer to the opening of the station. The rain began to ease, but the crowd had already outlasted an earlier downpour.

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Another group of protesters gathered along Gartland Street in Jamaica Plain. As police on motorcycles approached, an organizer stood between protesters and officers, urging everyone to remain calm.

About 300 protesters reached downtown shortly after 9 p.m. As they cut through Boston Common, a woman yelled that there would be no violence. Outside the State House, there were chants: “No justice, no peace!” and “George Floyd!”

Floyd’s death has driven protests in cities around the country — and as far away as London, Berlin, Paris, and Sydney. Some demonstrations have devolved into violence and looting after dark, and in some cities police have responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, and wooden batons.

State Police remained in Boston for a third consecutive night and were posted in other communities where protests were planned, agency spokesman David Procopio said in a statement. Additional troopers were standing by to help local police maintain order if necessary, Procopio said.

Tuesday’s demonstration came after several earlier protests held in the city since Friday.

A Friday march in Floyd’s memory drew at least 1,000 people and was almost entirely peaceful. There were 10 arrests, all associated with altercations between small groups of protesters and officers standing watch outside neighborhood stations.

On Sunday three separate protests roved the city and converged on Boston Common, where a crowd estimated at 20,000 kept a peaceful focus on Floyd and other Black Americans killed by police for about six hours.

But as crowds began to disperse around 9 p.m., the city’s advisory coronavirus curfew, a few remaining protesters grew restive and police responded with force. Nine police officers were injured, 21 cruisers were damaged, and 53 people were arrested.

Vigils in West Roxbury and Grove Hall on Monday night were peaceful.

Dugan Arnett, Gal Tziperman Lotan, Danny McDonald, Nestor Ramos, Martin Finucane, John R. Ellement, and Dasia Moore of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Zoe Greenberg can be reached at zoe.greenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @zoegberg. Vernal Coleman can be reached at vernal.coleman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @vernalcoleman