REVERE - As she stood on the steps of Revere City Hall in front of hundreds of protesters, Seba Ismail’s eyes welled up.
“Please do not stop here,” Ismail asked the crowd, as her friend and fellow organizer, Diamond Kodjo, dabbed her face with a tissue. “We’re tired. We’re exhausted. We’re angry. Our lives matter.”
The crowd had marched for an hour from Revere Beach to city hall on Broadway carrying enlarged photos of Black people killed by police officers nationwide: George Floyd; Breonna Taylor; Mike Brown; Tamir Rice.
Floyd, whose death at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day sparked two weeks of protests, had a third and final memorial service Tuesday in Houston.
They hoisted photos of Floyd and other victims of police brutality up high at city hall. Some shared their own stories of racial profiling, such as being pulled over while driving or followed around stores.
“I feel like a lot of times we know about these experiences,” Kodjo said. “But for it to be said out loud to the public, and for everybody to hear ... is something very strong, something that’s gonna stick with us all the way. So yes, that was a very powerful moment for me.”
The protest was the latest against police violence in Greater Boston organized by a group of teens and young adults who felt compelled to act. They put the march together over about four days in late-night Zoom calls, publicizing the event on Instagram and Snapchat.
“I honestly just wanted people to know that we’re here,” Ismail said. “Revere doesn’t have a huge Black population, but we’re still present, we are still visible.
Revere is “a majority POC city,” she said, using the abbreviation for People of Color. " . . . with a majority white city council, which doesn’t make any sense. We have no representation in city government. We honestly needed people to just know that we’re here, that we exist, that we matter, that we’re mobilizing, that we’re going to do things, that we’re not just going to stay silent. Because our city has just a history of being silent.”
The 2.5 hour protest had a small presence from the Revere Police Department. Officers walked alongside demonstrators, directing traffic on the way to city hall. Revere Police Chief James Guido marched with the protesters too.
The chief was applauded when he appeared at the front of the crowd at City Hall, but did not address the protesters.
Organizers said they wanted to draw the city’s attention to a variety of civic issues, from voting inaccessibility to a lack of meaningful space for young people to express themselves. They asked for funding for youth education, implicit bias training for police officers, and more people of color on the city council. They asked their fellow protesters to stay active, and to vote.
“The most important thing right now for us is to make sure that we’re having local change, because we only have so much to say on what’s happening on a national and state level, but we have direct saying what’s happening on a community level,” said Jason Acosta, another organizer. “As someone who’s a resident of Revere and has faced a lot of acts of racism in the community, I’ve definitely seen that there’s a willingness to change from some individuals.”
The organizers focused not just on police violence, but on racism and inequality in all its forms: Wealth disparities, education gaps, and health outcomes, especially as the coronavirus pandemic takes a disproportionate toll on Black and Latino communities.
“We can’t just pull away at roots,” Acosta said. “Because racism is directly connected to issues like public health initiatives and lack of resources in the hospice care. I mean, when we have a higher rate of pregnant black women not receiving proper treatment, or we have a lack of translations or resources provided for those who may not be able to speak English ... it creates disparities on a racial and ethnic basis.”
During an 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence, Ina Tall, president of the Revere High School Parent-Teacher Association and a program coordinator for the organization Women Encouraging Empowerment, said she grew phyiscally uncomfortable. Sitting still for the length of time a police officer kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck crystallized the horror of his death for her, she said.
It was a moment she was grateful for as she watched young people drive the conversation forward, she said.
“We trust our youth, we trust our children,” Tall said. “Give them a chance to show that they can do this in peace, and this is what they have accomplished today. we are so, so proud of them.”
Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at email@example.com or at 617-929-2043.