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Families of Mass. residents killed by police rally to demand end to qualified immunity

The families were joined by the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to urge justice for victims

Impacted Families Embracing Police Accountability held a rally in front of the State House where they were joined by Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream founders, Ben Cohen (center left) and Jerry Greenfield, (center right).John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

As a chilly drizzle sprinkled the Boston Common, demonstrators huddled near the steps to the Massachusetts State House Saturday to call for an end to qualified immunity for police.

“There’s no accountability for police who fatally shoot someone... it’s beyond upsetting,” said Claudyne Wilder, a friend and supporter of one of several families at the rally whose loved ones were killed by police. “That could happen to you or me, or anyone’s child... and it just doesn’t seem right.”

The protest, jointly organized by the police accountability coalition Impacted Families and The Party for Socialism and Liberation, pushed for state legislators to require independent investigations in cases where police use deadly force and to end qualified immunity, a legal doctrine shielding law enforcement from civil lawsuits concerning much of their conduct in the line of duty.


Co-chairs of The Campaign To End Qualified Immunity and Ben & Jerry’s founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield joined the dozens of protesters at the Saturday afternoon rally.

“The family members of people who have been killed by the police, they’re not demanding punishment, they’re just demanding justice. ... They’re demanding to have their day in court and to let a jury decide whether the cop did right or wrong,” Cohen said in a phone interview before the event.

“What Jerry and I have learned in the business world is that accountability is everything. If you want to enforce a set of norms in whatever organization you’re running, if somebody breaks those norms, you need to hold them accountable, and that’s not happening with the police,” he said. “And right now, the Massachusetts Legislature has an opportunity to right those wrongs.”

Jennifer Root Bannon, one of the cofounders of Impacted Families, became an outspoken activist against police brutality after her brother, Juston Root, was shot more than 25 times by officers in February 2020. The following month, the Norfolk district attorney’s office determined that police were justified in shooting Root, 41, who had struggled with mental health challenges.


In January, Root Bannon announced she was appealing the decision of a US District Court judge who ruled in December that the police involved in the shooting did not violate her brother’s Fourth Amendment rights against excessive use of force, and that the officers were protected by qualified immunity.

“Our elected officials are oftentimes talking about other egregious cases that are happening elsewhere in the country, but we’re all here today to say it’s happening in Massachusetts,” said Root Bannon, who encouraged demonstrators to write to their state legislators and sign Impacted Families’ #StrongerTogether petition.

At the protest, Root Bannon also called on Attorney General Andrea Campbell to appoint an independent investigator to look into her brother’s death.

Holding signs that read “JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS” and “Please END qualified immunity,” protesters cried, “If we don’t get no justice, then they don’t get no peace!”

Standing beside Root Bannon was Elina Estrella, sister of Miguel Estrella, who was having a mental health crisis when he was killed by Pittsfield police last March.

“He died because officers are not properly trained in handling these sorts of situations. He hasn’t received justice because the police are policing themselves,” said Estrella.

Wearing a sweatshirt with her brother’s face on it and the words “Justice for Miggy,” Estrella called on officials to require an outside agency to handle mental health crisis calls without police involvement.


No number of body cameras or promises of reform will bring her brother back, she said, or “change the fact that the officer is not being held accountable for his inability to properly serve and protect” the public.

“We want justice,” she said, “so that tragedies like this never happen again.”

Ivy Scott can be reached at ivy.scott@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @itsivyscott.