We recently reported on the protests taking place across the Boston area after the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury announcement. Now, another controversial grand jury decision has caused local residents to rally together to speak out against police violence. Thursday night saw thousands of people coming together to protest the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City.
A crowd of demonstrators came together at Boston Common on Thursday night to speak out against police brutality, specifically for the high-profiled recent killings of unarmed African-Americans at the hands of police officers. The protest occurred during the official tree lighting ceremony, where thousands gathered in front of the State House on the Common. Protesters chanted, "hand's up, don't shoot," recalling some witnesses recounting of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. Others chanted, "enough is enough" and "I can't breathe" in response to the Eric Garner death.
Last week, about 1,500 people blocked Boston streets to protest the Michael Brown decision. The Michael Brown shooting has been hotly contested, involved starkly different witness statements, with some claiming his hands were up in surrender, others stating he was charging the police officer. However, in contrast the Eric Garner arrest was videotaped, and has been seen all across the country. The videotape shows New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo with his arms around Eric Garner in a chokehold, while Garner continues to say he can't breathe. Garner later died, with his autopsy listing the cause of death as a homicide.
Governor Deval Patrick, while saying he was disappointed with the grand jury's decision, asked protesters to remain peaceful in their gathering. Many of the protesters took to the streets, temporarily shutting down portions of the Mass Turnpike and Interstate-93. Other protestors stood on the tracks at Park Street Station, which was temporarily closed as a result. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MTBA) offered T-riders recommendations on its website for getting around the shutdowns.
The transit lines have since reopened. MTBA Transit Police spokesman Lieutenant Richard Sullivan was impressed by the peaceful manner in which people conducted the protest, as well as the professional behavior of the police. "That was true democracy taking place. Peaceful protests and professional police equals democracy."
Boston Police Department Commissioner William Evans, in echoing his announcements after the prior protests, said that that he was proud of his officers. A spokesman for the police department said Evans had been in talks with the protesters before the evening rally. "The restraint and professionalism exhibited by all my officers and our law enforcement partners during tonights peaceful demonstrations were exceptional," said Evans in a statement. No serious injuries were reported by the police.
The protests were generally peaceful, which was praised by both police and government officials. Only about 10 protesters were arrested by Boston police for disorderly conduct and/or resisting arrest related to blocking traffic. As of Friday, all ten people were arraigned in Boston Municipal Court, and had their charges reduced to "civil infractions," and have since been released.