We previously reported on the Boston-area protests which took place after grand jury decisions came out in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City. Both cases concerned the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of white police officers, surrounded by claims of excessive police force. The Massachusetts protests were reportedly peaceful, however one protester has come forward alleging a trooper sprayed him with pepper spray. To back up the claims, the protester posted a video of the incident on YouTube.
Kin Moy, 24-years-old of Cambridge, says he was peacefully protesting last Thursday night when the pepper spraying occurred. Moy was protesting the decision not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. In a YouTube video posted by Moy, an officer can be seen confronting him, shaking up a can and spraying it at Moy's face. Moy's face appears to show an orange substance which he claims is pepper spray.
According to Moy, he was attempting to record the arrest of another protester on a highway ramp when an officer confronted him. Moy was warned to move out of the way, or he would be sprayed. Moy says he was not resisting arrest or assaulting anyone, and the pepper spray could be an example of excessive action. He said he had no intention of going head-to-head with the police, and was backing off.
Boston police, who initially said they would be investigating the matter, have now put a state trooper on restricted duty in relation to the incident. A press release issued by the department does not divulge the name of the officer, but indicates he will stay on limited duty until they complete their investigation. Police have also said they were unsuccessful in trying to get ahold of Moy. Moy responded that he would speak with the Police after he was accompanied by a lawyer. He has also indicated he will be meeting with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans issued a statement praising his officers. "Therestraint and professionalism exhibited by all my officers and our law enforcement partners during tonights peaceful demonstrations were exceptional," said the statement. The press release does not appear to take into account the Moy pepper spray incident. While the recent police brutality incidents have focused attention on New York and Missouri, Boston Police are not immune from racial disparity in police activity.
According to a report by the ACLU, between 2007 and 2010 Boston police targeted people of color and their communities at a much higher rate than in white communities. The report found that while blacks make up just 24 percent of Boston's population, they were involved in 63 percent of police-civilian encounters. In nearly 75 percent of the reported encounters, police described the reason for stopping the individual as the unspecified: "investigate person." The information also showed that the police department failed to comply with constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure. Commissioner Evans has admitted that the department has some work to do.