By: Gherardo Astaldi and Gregory Yang
Thousands of protesters gathered at the Boston Common Thursday night in response to Wednesday’s grand jury decision not to indict the New York City Police officer who killed Eric Garner, a 44-year-old black man, by placing him in a chokehold in July.
The protest, which was scheduled to coincide with the city’s annual tree-lighting ceremony, was promoted through a Facebook event called “#EnoughIsEnough: We Are The Ones, Justice For Eric Garner.”
While the Facebook event had a scheduled start time of 7 p.m., crowds began gathering nearly an hour earlier. Protesters marched up to the gates of City Hall and began chanting, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
“Eric Garner, Michael Brown, shut this racist system down!,” demonstrators chanted.
The rally lasted for several hours as protesters took to the streets, highways and eventually the Park Street Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Station.
Several drivers honked simultaneously with protesters showing their support. Police tried to contain the crowds and prevent them from entering City Hall by lining their bikes up against each other and heavily patrolling the area. Throughout the course of the evening, protesters moved through Beacon Hill, the North End and Charlestown.
The march found its way back to the Boston Common several hours later, where hundreds of protesters pushed down into the Park Street MBTA Station and blocked tracks. The MBTA halted Green Line service from North Station to Kenmore Square as protesters blocked tracks, with hands above their heads shouting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” a chant that became well-known after the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri following the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
At approximately 10 p.m., chants calmed down as demonstrators began to give speeches and recite poetry. Those who spoke shared stories of family members and friends whom they lost to police brutality.
At least 10 protestors were arrested, according to The Boston Globe.
Several attendees of Thursday’s protests said relations between the police and the community needs to improve.
John Learner, 56, of Roxbury, said unity between police and the public is a step toward equality.
“The police have to form a better relationship with the community,” he said. “Right now, it’s us against them, and that’s absolutely not going to work.”
Cole Springate, 26, of South Boston, said the police don’t use force unless it is absolutely necessary.
“The use of force should be a last resort,” he said.
Julia Vacchiano, 19, a student at Emerson College, said recent cases of police brutality affect all citizens.
“The police needs to understand its power, because this is not only about racism. It’s about everyone,” she said. “The social media helped organize the events, and it’s important for people to understand that this battle is about equal opportunity for all.”
Joana Versil, 25, of the North End, said white people often lack the understanding of how the scope of their actions hinders progress.
“White people need to understand the impact that they are having and make changes about the way they behave,” she said. “A very harsh reality sparked by racism pervades this country, and no one is paying attention to it until these horrific incidences happen. I feel it is morally important to be here. This is a moral obligation to myself and the community.”
Berca Depestr, 20, of Dorchester, said the protest was successful in that it united people under a common cause.
“Coming together as one as you can see tonight shows the solidarity between everyone. Some people have even flown into Boston to attend the rally,” she said. “At the very beginning of the protest, they had a list of demands. Having constructive ideas and criticism will help open people’s eyes to the injustice we are feeling. I feel that as human beings, we deserve human rights, no matter what the race, skin or whatever the case may be.”
To see more from Thursday night’s protests, check out The Daily Free Press’ social media timeline.