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Protests across the region remember George Floyd, other Black Americans killed

Demonstrations are being held in Woburn, Newton, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and Milton

Brooklyn Manna lead a march during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest to honor the life of George Floyd in Woburn.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Thousands gathered across Greater Boston Thursday at schools, police stations, and parks, taking a knee by the hundreds in Jamaica Plain and Milton, chanting “Black lives matter!” in Roslindale and Woburn, as they denounced racism and police brutality.

The protests came on the day that a memorial was held in Minneapolis for George Floyd, a Black man who died on Memorial Day after being pinned to the ground for almost 9 minutes by a white police officer who has since been charged with his murder.

In Newton, demonstrators quietly lined up on either side of Washington Street in front of the city’s police station to remember Floyd, who pleaded for air as now- former police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on his neck.

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Floyd’s death sent people flooding into the streets across America, with people in large cities and small towns demanding justice for him and other Black people killed by police.

Demonstrators protest in Jamaica Plain
Demonstrators chanted and protested in Jamaica Plain against the death of George Floyd on Thursday. The demonstration ended with eight minutes of silence. (Shelby Lum|Globe Staff)

Bailey MacNeal, a 16-year-old rising senior at Newton North High School who is Black, said her mom started to cry when she saw the group of protesters when she dropped her off for the protest.

“It just shows how far we’ve come,” MacNeal said.

MacNeal’s friend, 17-year-old Arsema Kifle, said it was hard to explain all the things she felt but, “You could just tell in the air, in the atmosphere, that we were all fighting for the same thing.”

Both teens know the son of Tim Duncan, a Black Newton resident and former deputy athletic director for external affairs at Northeastern University, who shared his experience this week of being mistaken for a murders suspect by police in late May.

MacNeal and Kifle said they wanted to see more discussion and action about what happened to Duncan.

“We’re going to pay attention to things that go wrong,” MacNeal said, “but we also have to pay attention to this.”

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Just past 5 p.m., the crowd in Newton knelt on one knee in a tight grouping that stretched across Washington Street, chanting, “George Floyd! George Floyd! Breonna Taylor! Breonna Taylor!”

Taylor was fatally shot in her bedroom by Louisville, Ky., police executing a “no-knock” warrant in March.

Floyd’s death touched off more than a week of demonstrations, some of which have turned violent as protesters and police faced off.

On Thursday afternoon, the crowd in Roslindale Village was exuberant as residents gathered in Adams Park, circled by a constant stream of cars honking their horns in support.

Protesters held signs in memory of Floyd and other Black Americans killed by police.

One woman’s placard said simply, “8:46,” referring to the length of time Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck.

A Silent Vigil for Black Lives was held Thursday evening at the Adams Park perimeter in Roslindale Square. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Shyla Blalock, 9, came to the Roslindale demonstration holding a sign that read, “Stop Killing us because we are Black!! Sincerely, a beautiful Black girl.”

She had wanted to come to earlier protests this week, but her family decided this would be a good introduction.

“I want to see what a peaceful protest feels like and looks like,” she said.

Though many people of color were there, most in the crowd of hundreds were white — many painfully aware of what they saw as their duty to speak up. One sign said, “White silence is compliance.”

Judy Coughlin held a poster that said, “All mothers were summoned when he called out for his mama.”

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She got the idea from a similar sign that went viral at a protest earlier in the week. And she said it perfectly summed up how she felt seeing the video of Floyd’s killing.

“I just had to cry out,” Coughlin said. She said the event gives her hope that her neighbors want to create a more just society, as she does. “I was hoping to see the people of Roslindale and West Roxbury ready to organize to make the world a better place.”

Protesters knelt in the street blocking traffic on Washington Street in Newton. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Earlier Thursday, hundreds gathered at Woburn Memorial High School for an event organized by Brooklyn Manna, an 18-year-old senior who is headed to Brown University in the fall.

Manna organized the demonstration at her mother’s suggestion, reaching out to Woburn’s mayor last week. It took that long to get the permit she needed, and work out the details, she said.

Some in the community were resistant to the event, Mayor Scott Galvin said, worried it would result in rioting.

In reality, the gathering was entirely peaceful. Hundreds gathered in the high school parking lot, most dressed in black, carrying a variety of handmade signs. Most were young, students at the high school or recent graduates, but people of all ages and skin colors could be seen, including families with young children. A couple of parents pushed strollers.

The group departed the high school parking lot around 3 p.m., and matched a half mile to the city hall. “No Peace, No Justice!” they chanted as the sun beat down, the temperature inching toward 90 degrees.

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“Let me ask you guys a question,” Brooklyn, wearing black shorts and a black T-shirt emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” in orange, addressed the crowd from a podium set up on the steps of Woburn’s City Hall. “How many of you guys have experienced racial prejudice?”

Hands shot up from around the gathered crowd. “Take a look around. Does that make your heart sink? Because it made mine.”

In Milton, protesters formed a line on both sides of Blue Hills Parkway, stretching over a mile south from Mattapan to Canton Avenue. They held signs and waved to passing cars, which blared their horns in reply.

Around 6:25 p.m., everyone took a knee, including the Milton police officers overseeing the event.

Milton Police Chief John E. King said he hopes the nationwide protests will lead to more accountability.

“In anywhere, it’s difficult ... any work setting. People don’t want to go against their own They’ve got to continue to work there,” King said. “That’s human nature in any professional setting. I just think it can’t be tolerated in a police setting.”

In Jamaica Plain, demonstrators gathered in the afternoon for a monthly Black Lives Matter vigil near the Civil War Monument at Centre and South streets. At 6 p.m., church bells rang out, and hundreds of protesters took a knee.

After the bells ceased, the crowd stood, clapped, and chanted, “Black lives matter!”

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Dr. Gail Gazelle, 62, of Roslindale, stood a few steps away from the crowd near the Soldiers Memorial. Around her, people had been shouting the names of Black people killed by police over the last decade — Floyd last week, Taylor in March, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

This time, Gazelle said, the conversation seems to be different.

“The fact that there are murder charges, that people are using the word ‘murder,’ ” Gazelle said. “I don’t think we’ve seen that before.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately described the size of Thursday night’s rally in Milton. It has been updated.


Victoria McGrane can be reached at victoria.mcgrane@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac. Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen. Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com or at 617-929-2043. Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.