Last night, just a week and a half after what DigBoston described as "the biggest Hub protest in years," Boston saw another huge protest, this one even bigger. A massive number of demonstrators gathered in the city to protest the recent decision by a grand jury to not indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who administered a fatal chokehold on Staten Island-resident Eric Garner.
Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was killed by several New York City police officers who were arresting him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes earlier this year. The brutal takedown which caused Garner's death was captured in a video released by the Daily News. The video shows Pantaleo using a chokehold on Garner, a dangerous maneuver that is explicitly banned by NYPD policy. The medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Garner found that the chokehold was primarily responsible for his death. Pantaleo still faces a federal Department of Justice investigation, according to Attorney General Eric Holder.
On Tuesday, November 25, a crowd estimated to be about 1500 strong by several news media outlets gathered in Boston to protest the grand jury decision to not indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson over the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. It's not clear how many attended the more recent protest, but there were at least several thousand people there. The protest was one of many similar demonstrations around the country.
While the non-indictment of Eric Garner's killer sparked the protest, demonstrators hoped to put the incident in a larger context of the lack of accountability for police violence and racism.
"If we don't get it [i.e., justice], shut it down" protesters chanted, and they were largely successful in that goal. Countless police officers from various departments -- Boston police, State Police, Transit Police, Walpole police, Quincy police, HUD police, various campus police, and possibly others -- tried to manage the hours long protest as the night went on, but were unable to completely control it. The protest, which started on Boston Common, moved to the State House and then spilled into the streets, where protesters disrupted traffic in different parts of the city for hours. Protesters also gathered in Park Street Station, forcing the MBTA to shut the T stop down. The protest's size, scope, and spontaneity often made it difficult to tell what was going on from the ground.
The protest was primarily peaceful, but there were a few shoving matches between police and protesters at different points during the night. A small number of arrests took place, a few of which we witnessed.
There were a few medical incidents as well. While protesters were still gathered on the Common, a man had a seizure and injured his face after falling on the sidewalk. He was assisted by Boston police and EMS. Later in the evening, I witnessed a young woman sprain her ankle while marching. Several strangers immediately stopped to help her to the side of the road and one flagged down an ambulance that had been trailing the protest.
According to The Boston Globe:
Protesters blocked traffic in several locations across the city and disrupted MBTA service, but the demonstrations remained largely peaceful. At least 10 protesters were arrested by State Police and Boston police, spokesmen said...
The protest coincided with Boston's annual tree lighting ceremony:
The protesters were largely ignored by the spectators, as well as by Canadian dignitaries who were escorts for the huge tree that graces the Common every year. Addressing the crowd during the tree-lighting ceremony, the mayor of Halifax, Mike Savage, shouted over protesters chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot,” which has become an anthem in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., that followed the shooting death of 18-year-old Michel Brown.
By the time the tree’s lights went on shortly before 8 p.m., hundreds of protesters were marching toward the State House, where three were arrested as a crowd surged into a State Police line. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh made no mention of the protest just up the hill...
During the course of the next few hours, overlapping chants cascaded through streets from Beacon Hill to the Bulfinch Triangle, along the North End’s edge and into Charlestown and Cambridge. Marchers periodically stopped to sit or lie down in the street — “die-ins,” mimicking deaths like Garner’s — then rose with their hands in the air.
Some groups diverged from the main march only to rejoin a few blocks later. One group, thousands strong, attempted to get on Interstate 93 near the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge but was thwarted by police. Protesters paused near Leverett Circle, staged a die-in near the Zakim Bridge, and marched into Charlestown and Cambridge, closing off traffic at several points.
Wherever they went, police in bright yellow jackets lined the route. Confrontations between protesters and police were few, as some marchers held their signs up to officers’ faces, and another group carried mirrors — “for the cops, so they can see what they look like on the wrong side,” said Becca Chapman...
Shortly after 9 p.m., more than 200 demonstrators rushed onto the highway off-ramp located near the intersection of Kneeland Street and Atlantic Avenue, stopping traffic on Interstate 90 for several minutes.
Virtually all of the demonstrators voluntarily walked back off the ramp, and were followed down by State Police, who reported one arrest there for disorderly conduct...
According to The Boston Globe, several people who were arrested last night were scheduled to be arraigned this morning:
At least six people who were arrested in Boston Thursday night during demonstrations against what they contend are examples of racial profiling and police brutality are expected to be arraigned Friday...
The arrested protesters — who were held on charges such as disorderly conduct — will be arraigned in Boston Municipal Court Friday, said Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.
Boston police and State Police arrested at least six people Thursday night, but the number of arraignments expected today is “significantly smaller” than those from last week, when nearly 50 protesters were arrested as they marched in protest of a grand jury’s decision not to indict former Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, Wark said.
The protest was scheduled to start at 7 PM, but was already fairly large when we arrived several minutes before then. It was scheduled to end at 11 PM, but was still going on when we left around 12:15, although by that point there were more police officers than demonstrators. We accumulated so many hours of video that we have not been able to go through it all yet, but we hope to release many of the highlights in the coming days.
Update (12/10/14): You can see our video of protest highlights here: