State Police arrest 23 protesters in Boston
Afternoon march calls for end to targeting of minorities
State Police arrested 23 people participating in a protest that drew about 1,000 to downtown Boston on Saturday afternoon, said Colonel Timothy P. Alben, superintendent of the State Police.
The 4½-half-hour demonstration was the latest in a series of more than a dozen across Greater Boston that began two days before Thanksgiving, following the decision of a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.
Demonstrators crowded the steps of the State House and spread onto Boston Common shortly past noon to call for the end of police brutality that they said routinely targets minorities around the country, and to protest incidents such as those in Ferguson and in Staten Island, N.Y., in which white police officers killed unarmed black men.
“We’re here today not only to seek solutions for Eric Garner and Michael Brown, but because this is an issue we see here in Boston,” said Brandi Artez, 28, referring to the men killed in those two cases.
Most of Saturday’s arrests occurred in front of the Suffolk County Jail on Nashua Street after demonstrators tried to shove past a line of troopers and into Leverett Circle, Alben said in a phone interview Saturday evening.
“They tried to push our people back and breach a line that we set,” Alben said. “They were pushing toward . . . a line we had established across Nashua Street, so that traffic wouldn’t be impeded in the circle.”
Alben said that his troopers worked collaboratively with Boston police to manage the protest, and that most of the demonstrators were peaceful and respectful. However, he said, the officers “made it very clear that blocking interstate highways . . . was off limits.
“Anybody that got arrested today, it was because they wanted to be arrested. It certainly wasn’t because the police wanted to arrest them,” he said.
The crowd outside the jail appeared to become angry when some State Police brandished batons. One demonstrator called upon others to push the line of troopers backward. Troopers returned the protesters’ shoves and told them to move back.
Troopers then placed zip-tie cuffs on more than a dozen protesters, and detained them in a State Police van.
“I saw a woman taken by four or five police officers,” said Rachael Kadish, a student from Somerville who was observing the march. “They had her on the ground.”
Kadish said the officers appeared to put zip-ties on the woman’s wrists and carried her away, face down and parallel to the ground.
There was also a brief altercation on Tremont Street near Boston Common, when a protester was pushed into an officer on a bicycle. The protester appeared to become angry and kicked the bicycle’s rear tire, causing the officer to fall. The officer rose and tackled the protester to the ground, but did not detain or arrest him.
Troopers arrested 15 males and eight females “who ignored repeated orders to comply,’’ according to David Procopio, a State Police spokesman.
Procopio said all those arrested had been charged with disorderly conduct, with one male protester facing an additional charge of assault and battery on a police officer.
In a statement issued Saturday, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans thanked officers for their “restraint and professionalism.”
“After several sit-ins and blocked roadways, no arrests were made by the Boston Police Department and no injuries were reported,” Evans said. “I also want to again acknowledge and thank the public for their patience and understanding as a result of the necessary road closures and driving restrictions employed throughout the day.”
Early Saturday afternoon, Mayor Martin J. Walsh had called for a nonviolent demonstration.
“I just ask them to continue to protest in peace, and certainly we’re hearing people’s voices here in Boston,” he said in an interview at a holiday event in Hyde Park. “A protest, depending on the size, can cost up to $1 million a day, but that’s something that we’re going to do to keep the public safe.”
In Ferguson, 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. was fatally shot by a white officer in August. In Staten Island, Eric Garner died after being put in a chokehold by a white officer in July. In both cases, grand juries did not indict the officers involved in the deaths.
The protestors represented people from around the city and different backgrounds. Similar demonstrations took place across the country, including in Washington, D.C., according to the Associated Press.
There was a visible law enforcement presence throughout the demonstration’s progress through the city, with State Police and Boston officers using barricades at several points to keep protesters away from highways.
The march was mostly peaceful, with many protesters bringing young children to participate.
“It takes all of us continuing to show up, saying this is something the country has to deal with,” said Ceasar McDowell, 64, of Cambridge, who was attending with his young granddaughter. “Racism is a deep wound in this country that affects everyone’s lives.”
About 12:45 p.m., the crowd left the State House and marched up Tremont Street toward TD Garden, and Martha Road toward Charles Street before they hit a barricade just beyond the Boston Synagogue.
There, at 1:30 p.m., protesters staged a “die-in,” lying silently in the street for 4½ minutes, which one protester said symbolized how the bodies of Brown, Garner, and Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot to death by Cleveland police, were left to lay on the ground after their deaths.
A handful of protesters then addressed the crowd by megaphone, including Wayne Dozier, grandfather of D.J. Henry, a black college football player from Easton who was fatally shot by a white police officer in New York state in 2010.
“I stand here representing families that have lost loved ones to the police,” Dozier said, listing the names of young black men killed by officers. “All of these families, I stand and represent them, from Boston to California, from South Carolina to Rhode Island.”
Dozier then called out a protest slogan, “This is what democracy looks like,” which was echoed by the crowd.
From Nashua Street, protesters traced a route into Downtown Crossing and back through Boston Common, ending at Copley Square.
About 4:20 p.m., the protesters sat down at Dartmouth and Boylston streets, chanting slogans that included, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and ended with, “We’ll be back!” before dispersing 10 minutes later.