Rallies protesting police brutality and systemic inequalities continued in Massachusetts on Saturday, with droves of demonstrators in Boston, Cambridge, Salem, and Worcester turning out to call for an end to systemic racism.
Outside Boston’s Faneuil Hall Saturday afternoon, dozens of men of color stood holding placards that featured the names of men and women of color who were slain by police. Emerson Foster, a human resources executive from Canton, estimated that about 100 men in suits stood with the signs facing City Hall.
“We want to make sure those individuals aren’t forgotten,” Foster said.
The event was organized by the networking group Boston Men’s Dinner Group, he said.
Foster said too many police officers with “a number of complaints in their jacket" are patrolling the streets, and he wanted to see a collective bargaining agreement with the police patrolmens union that is “good for the people." A message left with the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association was not immediately returned Saturday evening.
“We understand many of the issues that befall the community have to do with our political structure and the construct of government,” said Foster.
Athelstan Bellerand, a Roxbury resident who works as a director at a health insurance company, said the event outside Faneuil Hall offered “an opportunity to be with other men of color just to express what we’re feeling.” Remembering those who have died from police brutality “was a very somber moment,” he said.
“Too many names," Bellerand said. "Too many names.”
Later in the day, about 200 students gathered peacefully before the University of Massachusetts Boston campus center around 5:30 p.m. Most carried signs and wore black as they walked over the grass, still wet from the recent thunderstorm.
In the center of the crowd, a small group rallied their fellow students.
“I am sick and tired of this global conscious epidemic of Black bodies being brutalized,” said Celine Voyard, a labor studies major at the school.
Izabel Depina, a junior at the school, called for racial justice.
“My son is a Black man in his 20s, and I am scared for his life,” she said.
Tracy Beard, a graduate student, was emotional as she read a poem for those killed by police.
“I think the most important thing is to really look at the different ways our community can come together and allocate resources to our students — particularly Black and low-income students — and to think about how violence and police violence against our students has harmed us,” she said before the event.
Around 6 p.m., the crowd began to march around campus, and the gathering grew to about 300 as they marched to the South Bay parking lot on Mt. Vernon Street. “Whose campus? Our campus!” they shouted.
When they arrived at their destination, the crowd kneeled to honor George Floyd in a moment of silence. Group leaders also read off a list of demands, calling for three top UMass Boston administrators to resign, and asking the school to prohibit use of school property by police.
Despite some rain in Cambridge’s Central Square on Saturday afternoon, more than 150 people showed up at a demonstration calling for the ouster of President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and protesting police violence against Black people.
"Cataclysm, revolution, those are things that usually will promote change, and this is a time where we have both," said Carlos Bruno, a fencing coach from Concord.
Bruno thought a central issue with racism was the question of empathy.
“How do you change a thought process?” he asked. “Obviously it takes generations.”
Some in crowd carried signs that read “White silence equals white violence,” and “Racism is a pandemic.”
Call and response chants included “Police state, hell, no,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
Kendra Turner, who grew up in Cambridge, but currently lives in Haverhill, and works in the music industry, said change does not happen overnight and encouraged unity and togetherness.
“Everybody can be their own separate entity but if we ban together, we can be something greater,” said Turner.
Some of the demonstrators thought Trump had responded poorly to the protests that have erupted nationwide, with a few saying the president has failed to acknowledge that there is a problem of systemic racism in the United States.
In a Monday address in the Rose Garden, Trump called on governors to ramp up the National Guard presence to tamp down the protests. If they didn’t, Trump said, he would dispatch the military to their states — a step rarely taken in modern American history. Trump’s calls for a tougher crackdown rankled Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, who labeled such comments “incendiary.”
In Cambridge on Saturday, Dr. Phillip Rice, who is the chair of emergency medicine at North Shore Medical Center, called Trump a fascist and said he thought the president’s willingness to use military force against American civilians was “a sign of his weakness.”
Rice said he was there to oppose “a system that keeps killing Black and brown people wantonly with no recourse and no accountability.”
“Everyone’s tired of that," he said. "I’m tired of the system that produces that. I’m tired of investigations. It’s ridiculous.”
After a series of speakers addressed the scores of people at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and River Street, the crowd marched into the street, where people collectively took a knee not far from Cambridge City Hall, stopping traffic in either direction.
Earlier in the afternoon, scores of people also took a knee in Worcester at an event protesting the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old handcuffed Black man who died on Memorial Day when a white Minneapolis police officer pinned his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
At Salem Common on Saturday, a few hundred people showed up to a demonstration, according to Terrell Greene, a speaker at that event. Greene said one of the central messages conveyed at that rally was that there was more work “to be done after this point.”
Recent demonstrations, which have been held daily in Boston for more than a week, have focused mostly on the killing of Floyd but also on the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and racial inequality at large.
Last Sunday, tens of thousands marched from Roxbury’s Nubian Square to the steps of the State House. Following that peaceful demonstration, violence and looting occurred throughout downtown and the Back Bay. More than 50 people were arrested and more than two dozen were sent to the hospital. Since that turmoil, the heart of the city has had a heavy law enforcement presence, including pockets of fatigue-wearing and rifle-wielding National Guard soldiers and Humvees.
After Sunday’s tumult in Boston, the vast majority of demonstrations in the state have ended peacefully.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Danny McDonald can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.