The Boston Athletic Association said Thursday that it did not deliver on its promise to make the Boston Marathon a great day for everyone, three days after videos surfaced of a police interaction with racially diverse spectators.
Jack Fleming, president and CEO of the organization, said the BAA met Wednesday night with members of the Pioneers Run Crew and TrailblazHers Run Co., “two of Boston’s premier clubs for BIPOC runners.” Members of the clubs were cheering near Heartbreak Hill on Monday when a large group of Newton police officers blocked the spectators from interacting with runners.
“We know what the Boston Marathon means to our communities; it is very personal to so many of you,” Fleming said in a statement. “However, this year, we know that we did not deliver on our promise to make it a great day for everyone.”
Statement from Jack Fleming, President & CEO of the Boston Athletic Association: pic.twitter.com/aQgeNEQ6fg— Boston Marathon (@bostonmarathon) April 20, 2023
Fleming said members from the two running groups shared concerns that they were not given the chance to enjoy the day and celebrate friends and family who were running.
“That is on us,” Fleming said. “It is our job, and we need to do better to create an environment that is welcoming and supportive of the BIPOC communities at the marathon.”
The Newton Police Department previously said that it responded three times to requests from the BAA to keep the group members from obstructing runners on the course. The BAA had not specifically addressed the incident or answered questions about how many times it called police for other similar incidents during the race.
Multiple runners and spectators told the Globe it was “incredibly common” for spectators to enter the course and interact with runners. Members of the two running groups said they felt singled out for engaging in the same type of behavior as others.
Fleming also said the BAA relies on the support and services of the eight cities and towns along the Marathon course.
“We could not do it without the first responders and law enforcement agencies across 26.2 miles that is necessary at an event of this scale,” he said in the statement. “We ask for everyone’s support as we move forward to improve the event for generations to come.”
Lawyers for Civil Rights, which on Wednesday filed a public records request to Newton officials, said that it “appreciates the Boston Athletic Association’s interest in being welcoming and supportive of BIPOC communities at the Boston Marathon.”
“To be clear, Lawyers for Civil Rights took legal action against the Newton Police Department — not the Boston Athletic Association,” lawyer Iván Espinoza-Madrigal said in the e-mail statement. “The police department is responsible for its own conduct.”
The lawyers group had sent a letter to Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and Newton Police Chief John Carmichael Jr., seeking records of all police incidents, reports, and surveillance activity along the Marathon route, as well as the race and ethnicity of anyone arrested there. They also requested a meeting with Newton officials that would include athletes and spectators to discuss the “urgent underlying public safety and racial profiling concerns.”
The letter also urged the Police Department to review its Marathon tactics and its policies to root out racial discrimination, and to issue an apology to runners and spectators.
“Newton has a legal obligation to engage in bias-free policing,” Espinoza-Madrigal said. “They also have a legal obligation to respond to our demand letter, including the public records request. LCR is keeping all legal options on the table.”
Fuller addressed the issue Thursday in her weekly update to the community.
“On Marathon Day, after being notified by the B.A.A. three times about spectators traversing the rope barrier and impeding runners, the Newton Police Department responded respectfully and repeatedly requested that spectators stay behind the rope and not encroach onto the course. When spectators continued to cross the rope, the NPD, along with additional officers, calmly used bicycles for a period to demarcate the course and keep both the runners and spectators safe,” Fuller wrote.
“We know this was very upsetting for these spectators. We have heard their deep concerns,” she said.
Fuller said she and Carmichael " look forward to speaking with the Pioneers Run Crew and the TrailblazHers Run Co. about what happened and how we can do better in the future, if and when that works for them.”
The Pioneers leadership on Thursday posted an Instagram story that stated: “We are working closely with the BAA and state and local officials to obtain greater clarity regarding what happened on Marathon Monday, and to positively move forward via direct action.”
“We will continue to elevate our BIPOC community in the sport of running and amplify voices of those often silenced,” the group wrote.
Sahar Fatima can be reached at email@example.com Follow her on Twitter @sahar_fatima.