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Somerville mayor wants charges dropped against I-93 protesters

Protesters blocked Interstate 93 southbound in in Somerville during a January rush hour.
Protesters blocked Interstate 93 southbound in in Somerville during a January rush hour.REUTERS

Somerville’s mayor is lending his voice to the legal battle facing protesters affiliated with the activist group Black Lives Matter who formed a human chain and blocked Interstate 93 in January, calling for all charges to be dropped.

“If we allow the Somerville 18 to be treated differently today …,” wrote Mayor Joe Curtatone in a Facebook post referring to 18 of the protesters who were from Somerville, “there is no respect for the right to protest when the punishment proposed is completely disproportionate to the action taken.

“It is time for more political leaders to join our religious leaders in demanding fair treatment for the Somerville 18,” he continued. “The job of the District Attorney is a difficult one and we must respect the office’s ability to prosecute, but the ability to prosecute must be weighed against the question of whether or not justice is being done. We must hold injustice as more important than inconvenience.”

In a pair of coordinated surprise actions that angered commuters on Jan. 15, the protesters formed human barricades on I-93 north of Boston in Medford, and south in Milton. Some put barrels filled with concrete on the highway and chained themselves to them.


The protests were carried out on Martin Luther King’s birthday by activists calling attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police in Missouri and New York.

Twenty-nine demonstrators were arrested, and they face charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct, and conspiracy.

In July, state Representatives Colleen Garry, Timothy Whelan, and Walter Timilty pushed for a bill that would allow authorities to charge anyone who blocks the highway with attempt to murder.

DROP THE CHARGES AGAINST THE SOMERVILLE 18: We are a nation founded upon and strengthened by a long history of social...

Posted by Joe Curtatone on Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Peter Schworm, Laura Crimaldi, and John R. Ellement of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Aimee Ortiz can be reached at aimee.ortiz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @aimee_ortiz.