Activists gathered at a park across from Boston Police District B-2 in Roxbury Friday evening to protest a grand jury decision not to press criminal charges for the killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed by Louisville, Ky. police in March.
Speeches at Justice Edward O. Gourdin Veterans Memorial Park were followed by a winding march to City Hall. The crowd remained energetic and verbally engaged with several police officers along the way, before dispersing peacefully as the night ended.
As a crowd formed, several activists called for a peaceful protest.
“I only have a few set of rules when you’re in my community: do not jack it up,” said Clifton Braithwaite, president of Boston-based GLO Solutions for Humanity. “What you do with the police is your business, but let’s stay away from violence if we can. As the hood, we got your back.”
The night’s first round of speeches began at around 6:20 p.m.
Camila de la Vega Maldonado, one of the event’s organizers, led the crowd in a meditation as a muddled chorus of horns, sirens and helicopter blades rang out. She finished her speech with a call for offerings to a candlelit altar for Breonna Taylor that she had set up earlier.
Following the meditation, organizers repeated calls for civility, urging attendees to act in the same manner they would if at a family member’s memorial service, before calling several more speakers to the microphone.
“Those charges were a slap in the face to Breonna’s family and everyone who has been in the streets demanding justice for her,” said Gabby Black, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “This system is making a mockery of our lives.”
Additional speakers included Monica Cannon-Grant, founder of Violence in Boston, which provides assistance to local victims of police violence.
“We have an obligation to not just show up today, leave, go home, eat your cheese sandwich and check off the box that you marched for the Negroes,” Cannon-Grant said. “What I need you to do is keep that same energy consistently.”
At about 7:20 p.m., the crowd began to march down Malcolm X Boulevard toward the Boston Police Headquarters in Roxbury. Call-and-response chants mixed with beating of hand drums.
At the headquarters, a representative from Boston-based Solidarity Against Hate, which planned its own event the same evening, gave a brief speech about the history of systemic racism in the United States.
“When there are Nazis in the streets, [the police] defend them and beat the s— out of anyone that dares to oppose it,” he said.
The SAH organizer’s speech was cut short by a verbal confrontation between a few marchers and police officers stationed behind a barricade. The protest remained peaceful, and the crowd resumed its march.
The crowd’s size and energy remained sustained as protestors continued to Peters Park around 8 p.m., although a few marchers said they were confused about their ultimate destination.
There, near 8:40 p.m., a representative of Mass Action Against Police Brutality spoke on the 2016 Boston Police killing of Terrence Coleman, calling for the case to be reopened.
Just after 9 p.m., as the crowd marched along Washington Street, a group of roughly 30 police officers stood at the intersection of Avenue de Lafayette — the closest officers and activists had come thus far. A number of marchers yelled obscenities and recorded the officers.
Along the remainder of the route, additional officers clad in riot gear appeared to monitor the crowd.
Shortly after 9:20 p.m., the group arrived at City Hall, where hundreds of activists filled Faneuil Hall Marketplace and a stretch of Congress Street to listen to a final round of speeches. As a handful of marchers began to verbally engage police officers surrounding City Hall, organizers again called for peace.
The concluding speakers echoed previous statements that structural racism is inseparable from capitalism and called for continued action by attendees.
“The state and justice system do not serve or protect, nor value any of us,” said Black Boston’s director of events, who identified herself only as Yachty. “When we protest for the people, they ignore us. It is when we destroy property, when we dip directly into the oppressors’ profit, that they then decide to pay attention because that is the only time the oppressor cares to listen.
The night concluded with a speech by Ashawn Dabney-Small, a Dorchester local currently running for City Council. He pointed to the absence of government officials at protests as a display of their disconnection from citizens.
“[Mayor] Marty Walsh, where the f— are you? Gov. Baker, where the f— are you?” Dabney-Small said. “You sent these dudes out here, the police out here for what? We’re protesting peacefully.”
The event ended peacefully following his speech, although a few protesters continued to engage verbally with police officers.
Dabney-Small, who at 18 would be one of the youngest representatives ever elected to the Boston City Council, later spoke of the importance of having councilors of color in office.
“Too many times we’ve put our trust in [the Council], and time and time again we’ve gotten our faces slapped, we’ve gotten maced in our face and all kinds of stuff,” Dabney-Small told The Daily Free Press as the crowd began to disperse. “I think now, we just need to do a restructuring.”