Metro

Black Lives Matter protesters who shut down Southeast Expressway in Milton plead guilty

The family of Richard McGrath, who was in an ambulance en route to a Level 1 trauma center in Boston, but was diverted to a Brockton hospital because of the protest, said it “could not understand how a group of people supporting a cause pertaining to the value of life could put so many lives in danger.’’

Scott Eisen for The Boston Globe

The family of Richard McGrath, who was in an ambulance en route to a Level 1 trauma center in Boston, but was diverted to a Brockton hospital because of the protest, said it “could not understand how a group of people supporting a cause pertaining to the value of life could put so many lives in danger.’’

Ten people who participated in a Black Lives Matter protest nearly a year ago by chaining themselves across the inbound lanes of the Southeast Expressway in Milton pleaded guilty Thursday to willfully obstructing an emergency vehicle and were sentenced to six months probation.

In Quincy District Court, the family of Richard McGrath said that on Jan. 15, 2015, McGrath was in an ambulance en route to a Level 1 trauma center after a car crash, but was diverted to a Brockton hospital because of the protest.

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“It was a very irresponsible and negligent act for a select group of people to impede his aid,’’ Amy McGrath said on behalf of her family and her father, who died of congestive heart failure last August at 83.

The family said it “could not understand how a group of people supporting a cause pertaining to the value of life could put so many lives in danger.’’

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The McGrath family said they considered the issues raised by Black Lives Matter “a very important topic,’’ but that the decision to close down a major highway leading to Boston and its hospitals was “reckless.’’

“This poorly planned protest disrupted so many lives and potentially could have taken lives in the process,’’ the family said.

Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s office asked that the protesters be sentenced to 90 days in jail, the maximum under state law.

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“We felt that incarceration was appropriate given the recklessness and potential for harm this created,’’ Morrissey said in a statement. The ambulance was in clear view of the protesters, he said, but they refused to let it through.

“They knew as they blocked the road that they were standing between someone who needed medical treatment and that treatment,’’ Morrissey said. “They just felt no compassion and no responsibility.”

Judge Mark Coven sentenced the protesters to six months of unsupervised probation and required them to perform 60 hours of community service at a nonprofit approved by the court.

Prosecutors identified the protesters who pleaded guilty as: Mark Schwaller, 33, James Billman, 26, Noah McKenna, 29, Emily Osmum, 28, Nicole Sullivan, 26, Angela Davis, 44, Eli Cohen, 26, Brett West, 27, William Connolly, 27, and Joshua Nickel, 25.

Nickel also admitted to sufficient facts to support a conviction for negligent operation of a motor vehicle because he used his car to shield protesters as they unloaded barrels that were filled with concrete, then chained themselves together, prosecutors said.

Two other protesters pleaded guilty to the same charges and received the same sentences last week.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.
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