More than 100 activists gathered outside the Bulfinch Entrance of the Massachusetts State House Thursday afternoon, braving the cold and rain to protest the Sunday police killing of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man.
Organizers with Mass Action Against Police Brutality called for justice in Wright’s case as well as greater attention for Massachusetts police killings and the reopening of their court cases.
Wright was killed in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis — the city where Derek Chauvin, a former police officer charged with second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, stands trial.
Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter — whose former police chief said he believes she confused her taser and firearm — was charged with second-degree manslaughter Wednesday for the shooting of Wright.
In an interview before the protest, Mass Action organizer Brock Satter said the charges against Potter were “flimsy.”
“It just underlines the question that it’s not just about George Floyd,” Satter said. “It’s bigger than Derek Chauvin, he’s not like the one bad apple. I think everyone’s just trying to figure out what it meant last year to see all those people take the streets.”
He added that a conviction in Wright’s case would be “a step in the right direction” and likely the result of public pressure.
Activists began to gather outside the State House as early as 4:30 p.m., lining its retaining wall with signs demanding justice for George Floyd, Burrell Ramsey-White, Terrence Coleman and other victims of police violence.
Music began shortly after 5:15 p.m. — Aretha Franklin’s “People Get Ready” drawing the crowd in. As Peter Tosh’s “Equal Rights” faded out, Satter led the crowd in an opening chant.
“What do we want?” he called — “Justice,” the crowd answered. “If we don’t get it?” he asked — “shut it down,” they replied.
In a speech, Satter called on Attorney General Maura Healey to reopen the cases of Black people killed by Massachusetts police. He added that Gov. Charlie Baker should assign independent investigators via executive order if “Healey won’t do her job and step in.”
“Part of what the country is trying to determine through the Chauvin trial and now more recently with this Daunte Wright case,” Satter said, “where are all the 30 million people that took to the streets last year?”
Following Satter’s speech, Hope Coleman — mother of Terrence Coleman, a Black man killed by police during a mental health crisis in 2016 — took the microphone.
“Stop killing our kids, mothers, fathers and sons,” Hope Coleman said. “We didn’t put them in the world for you all to kill them.”
Coleman recounted her son’s death as the percussive ring of a pair of claves punctuated key details — some of the only noise emanating from the near-silent crowd.
“He was quiet, he didn’t bother nobody, he wouldn’t even swear,” Coleman said. “I’m not going to sit my ass down, I’m going to keep on f—— walking and marching and protesting.”
Carla Sheffield, whose son Burrell Ramsey-White was killed by Boston police in 2012, recited a poem she wrote in the aftermath.
“I miss my son’s face, my heart’s in a broken place,” Sheffield said. “You took my son without my permission, now I’m crying, praying and wishing that justice be served. Because if nothing else, it’s what I deserve.”
The rain picked up a little after 6 p.m., but the crowd and its energy remained constant.
Additional speakers included Tahia Sykes, another organizer with Mass Action, and Tajeauna Alize, who said she was the victim of police brutality during a mental health crisis in March — resulting in a brain injury, a hematoma and a spinal injury.
“They handcuffed me with no shirt on,” Alize said through tears, “strapped me all the way to my neck with no shirt on, with my hands cuffed behind my back.”
Alize said police would have been less brutal if she was “a little white girl.”
As the rally wound down and the rain let up, organizers called for attendees to be vocal on social media and bring friends to future events to raise awareness.
Satter led the crowd in a final chant: “Terrence Coleman, what do you say?” he called.
“Reopen the cases,” the crowd chanted back.
“Michael Brown, what do you say?” Satter called.
“Reopen the cases,” the crowd chanted back.
The crowd dispersed as the list went on.