BROOKLINE — Several hundred residents held a “die-in” in front of Brookline Police Department on Sunday, and hundreds more staged a separate vigil in Arlington as part of the nationwide demonstrations against police treatment of members of minority groups.
The movement has grown in the wake of Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the killings of unarmed black men.
The Brookline protestors, most of them white, spent four and a half minutes laying silently in the street in front of the police department — a symbol for the four and a half hours Michael Brown’s body lay in the street after he was shot in Ferguson.
Mary-Helen Nsangou, the protest’s organizer, urged those attending to denounce racism in their community and elsewhere.
“Brookline is not innocent,” said Nsangou, 47, a lifelong resident of the town.
Among those attending was Gerald Alston, a black Brookline firefighter whose career has been in limbo since 2010 when he accused a supervisor of uttering a racial slur. Alston, who has filed a lawsuit over the incident, contends he has been ostracized by the department for his complaints.
The town’s investigation found that his supervisor, Lieutenant Paul R. Pender, was not directing his comments toward Alston but toward a driver on the road at the time Pender was leaving Alston a phone message.
Many of the protestors held signs supporting Alston.
“I love this support,” he said. “I refuse to be considered a problem because I spoke up.”
He and the other protesters marched silently along the sidewalk down Harvard Street, holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “White Parents: Talk to Your Kids About Racism.”
Liam Oberholzer, 17, came with friends and held a sign that read, “Open Eyes to the Reality of Black Lives.”
“Racism is a problem, even in liberal Brookline,” he said.
About 400 people attended a separate “Peaceful Sidewalk Vigil” in Arlington on Sunday afternoon.
Members of the community gathered at the four corners of Massachusetts Avenue and Pleasant Street for a “secular and peaceful event” to stand in solidarity with other Black Lives Matter demonstrations, said Bonie Bagchi Williamson, co-chair of the Arlington Vision 2020 Diversity Task Group and one of the organizers of the event.
“Our goal was . . . to make sure we do something and not to stay quiet, because there are families of color in Arlington as well and we wanted to give the town a forum, a place to allow feelings and allow for conversation,” she said.
The Arlington Police Department said the protest was “quick and quiet.” Bagchi Williamson said the protesters had included police in the discussions of planning the vigil.
There were several speakers at the event and the vigil ended with the group singing “We Shall Overcome,” she said.David Abel can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel. Kyle Plantz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @kylejplantz.