The death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police, which has touched off nationwide demonstrations protesting violence against Black Americans, has spurred local officials across Greater Boston to demand an end to racism and injustice for people of color.
In separate statements, local mayors, police chiefs, school leaders, and other officials expressed disgust at Floyd’s death, and said silence in the face of his killing was unacceptable.
“I can’t breathe ... I can’t breathe ... I can’t breathe ... These words are reverberating in my head as a plea for life,” Framingham Mayor Yvonne M. Spicer wrote in a Twitter statement. “Enough is enough!”
Floyd, 46, whose May 25 death during police custody was caught on video, died after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pushed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Floyd pleaded with officers, saying, “I can’t breathe,” before he died.
Four officers at the scene, including Chauvin, were fired. Four officers at the scene, including Chauvin, were fired. All four have been charged in connection with Floyd’s death.
Spicer, in her statement, said she is sick of the microaggressions, overt racism, physical, and emotional attacks on Asian, brown, and Black people.
“The rise in attacks on people of color in recent weeks has been outrageous. George Floyd was somebody’s son, brother, cousin, uncle — a human being!” Spicer wrote. “A man that deserved better from those sworn to protect and serve. We need to demand justice be served.”
Spicer called on white allies to amplify their voice and use their privilege to change a system "that does not work for all," she said.
Framingham’s superintendent of schools, Robert A. Tremblay, said children are watching and listening to the response of adults.
"They hear the deafening silence of too many White Americans who for too long have turned their eyes, ears and hearts away from Black Americans as they have called for justice," he said. " Members of the Framingham community, we can no longer look away. We stand in solidarity today affirming that Black Lives Matter."
In Easton, Police Chief Gary F. Sullivan said Minneapolis police failed in its core mission of protecting life.
The killing of Floyd, he said, “sickens me.”
“I denounce the actions of these police officers and am mindful that the actions of a few reflect not only on the many but also reflect on the failings of the system,” Sullivan said.
In Cambridge, Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui said she is navigating waves of anger and sadness as she thought about Floyd’s life, his family, community, and the nation’s history of criminalizing blackness.
"George Floyd's death should not have happened," she said.
In the statement, Siddiqui included a list of names of people whose lives were lost to police brutality, racism, and intolerance. They included Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Taylor was shot in her Louisville, Ky., home by police; three white men are charged in the murder of Arbery, who was killed while jogging in Georgia earlier this year.
"We, as leaders, too often invoke Black Lives Matter in the wake of a racist incident or a tragic death. This is not enough," Siddiqui said. "It must be part of our daily work, centered as we think about housing, education, transit, youth development, mental health, and the arts."
Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo, along with city schools Superintendent Dianne Kelly, Police Chief James Guido, and Fire Chief Christopher Bright, said in a statement they were heartbroken and appalled by the murder of Floyd.
Communities of color have suffered greater devastation due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Black people continue to see unprovoked, unwarranted violence, they said.
The nation is at a crossroads, they said.
"A crossroads we have approached too many times before only to find ourselves following the exact same path. If we are serious about making a change, we must all commit to doing so," the statement said. "We must commit to seeing racism, naming racism, and acting to end racism."
Randolph Police Chief William Pace said Floyd’s death was preventable “had the Minneapolis officers on scene maintained their professionalism and honored the oaths they swore when beginning their careers.”
"It is our responsibility to hold responsible the officers who tarnish the reputation of this profession through unjust and unreasonable action or inaction,” Pace said. “We know that the effectiveness of our profession can only be possible with the trust of the community in which we serve.”
Medford Police Chief Jack D. Buckley said he was saddened to see another senseless death of a Black man in police custody.
“Yet, once again, policing and policy both failed. It failed at its most basic level,” Buckley said. “It failed because of a simple lack of humanity.”
Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone said racism was the root cause of deaths of many Black people. The idea that Black lives are not as valuable as white lives is “tragically ingrained” in our culture, he said.
“As a society, we, especially white people, need to work to understand how racism has shaped our country, our beliefs, and our institutions,” Curtatone said. “We need to closely examine our own prejudices and problematic beliefs. We must reject racism where we find it whether it’s in a courtroom, the Rambles of Central Park, or a presidential tweet.”
In a statement from Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, City Council President Susan Albright, and School Committee Chairwoman Ruth Goldman, the officials said it was the responsibility of leaders to keep people of color safe by working with members of civic and social communities to address systemic, conscious, and unconscious racial bias in the city and its schools.
In the statement, Fuller, Albright, and Goldman said they are committed to “continue to work with you to pull that arc toward justice and will do so for as long as it takes.”
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.