Hundreds of demonstrators chanted, “No justice, no peace. Prosecute the police!” as they gathered at Roxbury’s Ramsay Park on Saturday afternoon to demand justice for Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans killed by police, including in Boston.
“We must tell the government we will not accept its lies,” Brock Satter, an organizer from the grass-roots group Mass Action Against Police Brutality, told a multiracial crowd that came together for a peaceful march to Dorchester.
Hope Coleman, mother of Terrence Coleman, who had paranoid schizophrenia and was killed by Boston police in 2016, said she requested an ambulance because her son was having mental health issues, but police showed up first.
She said officers overreacted when her son told emergency medical technicians he didn’t want to leave home. An officer told investigators Terrence Coleman had lunged at police and two EMTs with a knife, and the technicians credited the officer for saving their lives.
“All I heard was two shots,” Hope Coleman said, becoming emotional, “and I’m yelling, ‘What part of the body did you shoot my son?’ ”
“It’s a damn shame when you can’t call 911 for help,” she cried out later. “It’s time to reopen these damn cases and hold the cops accountable.”
The Ramsay Park protesters took to the streets, marching into Nubian Square, where they merged with another demonstration, joining in a shared chant of “Hey hey, ho ho, these racist cops have got to go!”
Participants in the Nubian Square protest then joined the march, which proceeded down Dudley Street through Upham’s Corner and ended at Town Field.
“We are here for justice, and until there is justice, there will be no peace,” Sirad Zahra, an organizer from Mass Action Against Police Brutality, told marchers as they approached Town Field.
On Wednesday, a Kentucky grand jury declined to bring charges against Louisville officers in Taylor’s shooting death, which happened in March while police executed a no-knock warrant during a drug investigation. That state’s attorney general said officers acted in self defense.
The grand jury indicted one officer, who has been fired, on three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighboring apartment. The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law.
Saturday’s demonstration followed a vigil for Taylor, 26, in Franklin Park on Wednesday that drew about 75 and a peaceful march of more than a thousand demonstrators Friday night from Nubian Square to police headquarters and City Hall.
On Friday, Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully over the weekend. “People are deeply upset, but we cannot turn to violence to express our pain,” Walsh said during a City Hall news conference.
On Thursday, Governor Charlie Baker activated the Massachusetts National Guard to assist communities that need help maintaining public safety during “large-scale events,” according to a copy of his order.
There were no guardsmen and few police visible along the march route Saturday. There were no arrests made at Saturday’s demonstrations, according to Officer Stephen McNulty, a Boston police spokesman.
As they wound their way through Roxbury and Dorchester, masked demonstrators carried signs with messages including “Abolish the police,” “No more complacency with an unjust justice system,” and “What will kill me first? COVID-19 or racism?”
A white demonstrator wore a T-shirt that said, “Racism is so American that when you protest it, people think you are protesting America.”
One speaker, who declined to give her name to reporters, said a portion of taxpayer money funding police should instead be sent back into Black and brown communities to improve education, nutrition, and quality of life.
“Look at our neighborhoods, our houses, our apartments — roaches and rats,” she said. “Look at what we have and don’t have in our neighborhoods.”
“Poverty creates crime,” she told the crowd. “They taught me that at Suffolk University. The white people taught me.”
Laurie Williams, 52, of Watertown, said she came to the protest because it’s important to keep up momentum for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I have friends in other parts of the country that tell me there’s nothing for them to go to,” she said.
Williams said the rally was a reminder that racism spares no region.
“We can’t pretend that we’re immune,” she said. “We can’t pretend that Massachusetts is just so liberal and so elevated that it can’t happen here. … We have to reform the system.”