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Robocalls to Boston students urge peace after Ferguson decision

Households of students in the Boston Public School system received automated phone calls from the Boston police Saturday, asking for demonstrations to be peaceful as a grand jury deliberates whether to indict a Ferguson, Mo. police officer, according to Boston police.

The automated phone calls went out to households with students in seventh grade and above, according to Officer James Kenneally, a spokesman for the Boston police.

A grand jury has deliberated for months about whether to charge Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson with the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black teenager.

Riots and looting ripped through the streets of the St. Louis suburb in the days following the death of 18-year-old Brown on Aug. 9. The shooting received national attention and demonstrations were held across the country.


On Thursday, Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans wrote a message to students in the city’s colleges and universities, urging calm in any demonstrations held after the grand jury’s ruling.

“I ask that if public demonstrations occur as a result of the decision, they are done with respect to our neighbors and businesses, responsibly and peacefully,” wrote Evans.

Kenneally said the calls to Boston Public School students’ households was a reiteration of Evans’ message, directed specifically at high schoolers.

“The Boston Police Department respects the rights of individuals to assemble and advocate for their opinions and causes,” wrote Evans on Thursday. “We are asking students to be mindful that there may be outside agitators trying to provoke and instigate otherwise peaceful protests.”

With the grand jury decision imminent, police have been drawing up plans with community leaders and city officials in preparations for expected demonstrations. Officers will be on duty to shut down streets for marches and be on the lookout for individuals who may attempt to rile up crowds, according to Evans.


Mayor Martin J. Walsh said earlier in the week that the city would not have a military presence and asked that any protest be peaceful.

“I believe in free speech,” said Walsh. “I believe in people being able to protest and speak their will freely. I believe that’s the society we live in. I would just ask people to do it in a respectful way.”

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Evan Allen of Globe Staff contributed to this report. Derek J. Anderson can be reached at derek.anderson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekJAnderson.