Amid a heavy police presence, thousands of protesters chanted “No good cop in a racist system,” and “No justice, no peace,” as they marched from Nubian Square to Boston City Hall Friday night demanding justice for Breonna Taylor.
Taylor, a Black medical worker in Kentucky, was fatally shot in March by white police officers whom a grand jury this week declined to charge with homicide.
Masked and carrying signs demanding justice, the crowd packed a small park across Washington Street from the neighborhood police station. Some carried signs with messages such as “Justice 4 Breonna,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Let Black women dream.”
The demonstration was largely peaceful, with protesters drawing applause from people who were dining outdoors at city restaurants. No arrests had been reported as of 10:45 p.m., according to Officer Stephen McNulty, a Boston police spokesman.
As the demonstrators gathered, more than 100 Boston police officers — many carrying long wooden batons — stood chatting in groups along Tremont Street near Downtown Crossing and along the Boylston Street side of Boston Common, where no protesters were present. A helicopter circled above.
A block away, on Washington Street, dozens of additional officers stood guard outside stores and at busy intersections.
In Nubian Square, the crowd cheered as Monica Cannon-Grant, founder of the antiviolence group Violence in Boston, said police should be defunded and the money redirected to Black and brown communities.
“As a Black woman, I am exhausted,” Cannon-Grant said, of racial bias in policing.
Two sets of metal barriers stood across the street from the park, near the police station. Multiple news helicopters hovered overhead, and a pair of officers could be seen on the roof of the station.
“I feel like a lot of the times, Black women who have been harmed by the system, killed by the system, don’t really get their voices heard as much,” said Janai Busby, 21, of Dorchester. “I’m here, obviously, for all Black lives, because all Black lives are important. But specifically for Breonna Taylor, because her whole entire story is just so unjust.”
Busby said she wasn’t shocked that no officers were indicted for Taylor’s killing, but she was still “devastated” when she heard. “Time and time again, this country shows us that it doesn’t care about … Black women,” she said. “We’re put down, killed, hurt by many, and there’s just never any justice.”
Emma Hubbard, 32, of the South End, said Taylor’s family, friends, and their supporters have been “waiting since March for any kind of justice, and it just has not come through.”
“We’re still here. We’re still ready for some justice,” Hubbard said, adding that she wants the officers who shot Taylor to be prosecuted.
Lanita Foley, 45, of Cambridge, said the grand jury’s decision not to charge the officers “devalued the life of Breonna Taylor. … It’s just a travesty of justice.”
“The country is in need of a respirator,” Foley said. “There are at least two pandemics, one of racism and one of the virus. … I just want to be part of the solution to build the respirator that our country is in dire need of.”
Around 7:20 p.m., demonstrators began marching toward Boston police headquarters on Tremont Street, where about a dozen officers stood stoically, wearing helmets with face shields and carrying riot sticks.
As the wave of protesters arrived, and a handful ran toward a police barricade, organizers implored them to keep the demonstration peaceful.
“Chill out, respectfully,” an organizer said through a megaphone. There appeared to be no violence.
Protesters stayed outside headquarters for only about 10 minutes before turning to march down Tremont Street toward downtown.
As demonstrators marched through the South End, outdoor diners applauded from sidewalk tables. Marchers urged observers watching from apartment windows to join them.
Protesters also chanted, “Black people used to live here,” and “Liar, liar, gentrifier!” Later, marching past police in the Theater District, they called out, “Hey hey, ho ho, these racist cops have got to go.”
Shortly before 9:30 p.m., the march came to halt on Congress Street between Faneuil Hall and Government Center. A few hundred gathered there, and several speakers addressed the passionate but peaceful crowd. The police presence was significant, but largely kept their distance.
The crowd began to disperse shortly after 10 p.m.
It was a scene reminiscent of late spring, when thousands of protesters marched through the city demanding racial justice and police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis by a white police officer.
On Friday afternoon, Mayor Martin J. Walsh urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully in Boston this weekend.
“People are deeply upset, but we cannot turn to violence to express our pain,” said Walsh during a City Hall news conference.
The mayor said that for many Black people and people of color, the lack of charges in connection with Taylor’s death, has brought “a lifetime of painful experiences to the surface.”
“Many people are angry and hurt and quite honestly confused at this point in our country,” he said. “We need to recognize the root of the pain.”
On Thursday, Governor Charlie Baker activated the Massachusetts National Guard to assist communities that help maintaining public safety during “large-scale events,” according to a copy of his order.
Baker said in the order that he was exercising his authority under state law to activate the Guard to provide “emergency assistance for the preservation of life and property, preservation of order, and to afford protection to persons.”
Baker previously activated the Guard in late August, drawing criticism from activists and a Boston city councilor who said that decision had the potential both to stoke tensions and discourage would-be protesters from taking part in peaceful demonstrations.
There were no visible signs of the troops near the protesters Friday evening.
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was shot multiple times by Louisville police officers during a botched raid on her apartment in March.
A Kentucky grand jury on Wednesday declined to bring charges against Louisville police for Taylor’s killing, which happened while officers executed a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. Attorney General Daniel Cameron said officers acted in self-defense.
The grand jury indicted one officer on three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighboring apartment. He did not hit anyone and has been fired. The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law.
In the wake of Wednesday’s announcements, protesters again took to the streets in Louisville and other cities across the nation for mostly peaceful protests, though a gunman wounded two Louisville police officers Wednesday night.
In Boston, about 75 people gathered Wednesday in Franklin Park to remember Taylor with a moment of silence and demand justice for her and other Black women killed by police.
There have been dozens of rallies and demonstrations in Boston in recent months calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism after the killing of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died on Memorial Day when a white Minneapolis police officer pinned his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes.
The majority of those demonstrations have been peaceful. On May 31, police clashed with people in ugly scenes in the heart of the city that followed what had been a peaceful march and protest. More than two dozen were sent to the hospital and more than 50 were arrested in that turmoil, and storefronts were smashed and ransacked throughout downtown and the Back Bay.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
There’s two rows of metal barriers in front of BPD HQ. There are maybe a dozen uniformed cops who are visible outside the building. They got the helmets with face shields and the riot sticks. Crowd is across the street. pic.twitter.com/KGdRXTRNgV— Danny McDonald (@Danny__McDonald) September 25, 2020
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