Marching to the sounds of drums and their own voices in the heart of Cambridge, more than 1,000 people demanded justice and an end to deadly police violence against Black Americans on Saturday, one of many protests across the region sparked by the national Black Lives Matter movement.
Demonstrators in communities across Massachusetts flocked to parks, streets, and fields in more than a dozen protests — most calling for racial justice, while some supported law enforcement amid calls to defund departments.
In Cambridge — where the March to Defend Black Lives focused on defunding police, investment in Black communities, and the resignation of President Trump — participants chanted “No good police in a racist system,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Shut it down.”
One participant carried a sign that read: “It is our duty to fight for freedom.” Another person’s sign said: “White Silence is Violence.”
The marchers left Cambridge Common shortly before 5 p.m., walked along Massachusetts Avenue, and made their way to City Hall by around 5:30 p.m. Before leaving the park, poet Toni Bee read a poem that invoked the words of George Floyd, the Black man whose killing by Minneapolis police touched off protests across the country. Floyd, who was 46, had called for his mother as he died.
“In the end, I am a momma and I need my babies to come home,” Bee said.
They arrived at Cambridge police headquarters at about 6:45 p.m. Cambridge resident Salma Abdelrahman thanked protesters for their work and for staying peaceful.
“This fight does not end here,” she said.
At the front of the protest march, participants helped carry a large banner, which criticized a proposal to reallocate a $4.1 million police budget increase for other uses. That amount “is far too little,” the banner said.
At City Hall, they carried the banner up the building’s steps and held it across the front door. With a “Black Lives Matter” banner attached to a window, they called out: “No one is free until Black folk are free.”
Saturday’s round of demonstrations followed Juneteenth observances Friday that commemorate the end of slavery — a day celebrated for more than 150 years by Black Americans that only gained broader attention in the wake of this year’s national protests.
In places like Boston, Methuen, and Framingham, more than a dozen demonstrations and marches in support of people of color continued Saturday, nearly a month after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. In other communities, including Quincy and Amesbury, some took the side of law enforcement and called on supporters to “Defend the Police.”
Brendan Rodrigues, the 12-year-old organizer of a Justice March for Black Lives in Framingham on Saturday afternoon, said he prays that Black Lives Matter demonstrations will lead to justice and the recognition of the civil rights of Blacks and people of color in the United States.
“I understand that all lives matter, obviously,” Rodrigues said. “But Black lives aren’t mattering to the government. For all lives to matter, Black lives need to matter as well.”
Earlier in the day, during separate protests by Stand Out Against Racism Cambridge, participant Gerry McDonough, 69, said the group held events at the city’s Central and Porter squares, and on Alewife Brook Parkway at Rindge Avenue.
“It’s not a loss for us to stand out,” McDonough said. “Black Americans face problems when they walk into the store, drive a car, or walk down the street. ... We want them to know that we are with them, and this situation needs to end.”
“We should have done this a long time ago,” McDonough said.
Elsewhere, demonstrators who put their support behind police — and in many cases behind Trump — were out Saturday as well.
Dianna Ploss, the founder of MA 4 Trump, hosted a Defend the Police rally that began at 10 a.m. at Wollaston Beach in Quincy, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Demonstrators there held Thin Blue Line signs — black-and-white US flags with a single blue stripe — and waved at cars along Quincy Shore Drive. One person held a sign that read, “Back the Blue.”
At an Amesbury event for Trump, participants held American flags; one man held a sign that read, “Police Lives Matter.”
In other communities, demonstrators saw the Black Lives Matter movement as an opportunity for reform of police and other local priorities.
In Methuen, a Black Lives Matter protest began at the city’s high school stadium and demonstrators walked to the city hall, said Jessica Sanchez, 23, one of the organizers.
Protesters stood in solidarity with the city’s Black community, and called for justice in the wake of police brutality, she said. They called for defunding police and reallocating those resources to other areas, like education.
Sanchez, who is a Methuen native of Dominican descent, said her hope is to broaden the activism to include other issues, including the promotion of affordable housing and community enrichment programs.
The city’s young people want to “let our elected officials know that we are here, and we care about our community,” Sanchez said. “We would love to see reform take place.
In Framingham, Rodrigues, a student at the Christa McAuliffe Charter School said his march through the city — from Butterworth Park to City Hall — began at 2 p.m.
Rodrigues, with the support of teachers at the McAuliffe School, organized the demonstration after watching video of Floyd’s killing.
“I’m very angry that, as a 12-year-old, I have to fight for rights that should have been settled a long time ago,” Rodrigues said.
After a speech by Rodrigues at the city’s Butterworth Park, participants walked about a mile to Framingham’s City Hall, where marchers knelt for the same amount of time Floyd was kept pinned by police: 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
One man carried a sign that read “Abolish Qualified Immunity Demilitarize the Police,” while a woman displayed a sign with the message: “Silence is the side of the oppressor.”
Rodrigues’s father is Black, and his mother is a US citizen who immigrated from Brazil. He said he could see himself in Floyd’s position as that video depicted Floyd’s last moments. He also worries about the future of his 2-year-old sister.
“I don’t want my sister growing up in a world with segregation,” he said.
Danielly Rodrigues, Brendan’s mother, said it has been heartbreaking to see her son go through this.
He’ll be taking driving lessons in a few years, and Danielly Rodrigues said she has already had to talk to her son about complying with police during traffic stops — things like keeping his hands visible, and not reaching for the dashboard.
The Floyd video made her go over those warnings again, she said.
“He was a Black person,” she said of Floyd, “but this affects all people of color.”
Of her son’s efforts against injustice, she said: “I’m really proud of him.”
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.