SOMERVILLE — Chanting, sign-waving protesters marched 2 miles Sunday — from Somerville High School to the Cambridge Police Department — to demand that the officers who fatally shot a 20-year-old college student earlier this month be publicly identified and fired.
The marchers also called for major systemic changes including the allocation of funds away from law enforcement and toward an alternative emergency response program.
“We demand that CPD immediately release the names of the officers, fire them immediately, release the full, unredacted police reports, indict, and convict the killer cops,” Matthew Kennedy, of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, one of the event’s organizers, told a crowd of several hundred. “But we’re not going to stop with just the individual killer cops. We need to change the system as a whole so murder like this can’t happen again.”
Nearby, a protester held a sign that read: “They killed him. He needed HELP. 5 bullets is unnecessary.”
On Jan. 4, police responded to a 911 call reporting that a man, later identified as Arif Sayed Faisal, a computer science major at the University of Massachusetts Boston and an immigrant from Bangladesh, was jumping out of an apartment window in Cambridgeport with a knife and then cutting himself in the courtyard below, the Globe previously reported.
When police located Faisal bleeding in an alleyway, he fled with the knife, officials said. After a chase that lasted roughly 12 minutes and a confrontation with officers, Faisal was shot and killed, officials said.
“We need to disarm and demilitarize the police,” Kennedy said. “There’s no reason why people with guns should be responding to a nonviolent incident.”
“When we call, we don’t want bullets from them. We want help,” said Pervin Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Association of New England, another event organizer.
Sarah Halawa, of Safe Schools Somerville, described Faisal as an active student and 2020 graduate of Somerville High School. He had attended the Winter Hill Community Innovation School, was connected to teen empowerment projects, participated in a Mystic Mural Project, and worked as an interpreter at community events, she said.
“Arif was a member of this community, of the Somerville community; we own him, he was ours,” Halawa said. “This was someone who worked hard, who participated in the community. This should not have happened. We can prevent this. Enough is enough.”
The protesters compared Faisal’s death with the killing of Tyre Nichols, who was beaten to death by police in Memphis three weeks ago. Body camera footage of the attack on Nichols was released Friday, sparking a series of marches nationwide.
As marchers with megaphones made their way Sunday to the Police Department, they conjured up both young men’s names. “Justice for Faisal. Justice for Tyre,” they shouted. “Justice for everyone killed by the police.”
Massiel Torres, 28, a doctoral student at Harvard University, rode the T from Watertown to attend Sunday’s rally.
“We are living in a society that is over-policed and people are at risk of being murdered at any moment, or abused, or harmed, by the police,” Torres said. “Anything that has to do with liberation, freedom, and building community resources is very important to me. Also, I’m just simply tired of all the violence.”
Keith Jones, 49, a UMass Boston professor who lives in Dorchester, brought his son, Diego, 7, and daughter Alessandra, 9, to the march.
“I want them to recognize the strength of solidarity, coalition building, and that all of our liberation is bound up in one another’s,” Jones said.
“I’m just sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Jones said. “But we have to be organized. I want to instill that in my children.”
José Alemán, 59, who teaches Spanish and literature at Westford Academy and lives in Somerville, said the shooting was not the way to resolve the situation with Faisal.
“Cutting a life short in that way is not what public institutions are funded to do,” Alemán said. “A mental problem is not fixed with bullets.”