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55,000 protest police murder in Boston after days of sharp struggle

By staff |
June 3, 2020
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Boston, MA - On the evening of June 2, an estimated 55,000 people gathered in Boston’s Franklin Park to protest the police murder of George Floyd. The event began with the blocking of Blue Hill Avenue, next to the park in the working-class neighborhood of Dorchester, for a die-in. Protesters laid down in the street for eight minutes and 46 seconds – marking the length of time that Floyd was held down by the Minneapolis police officers who crushed the life out of his body. The enormous crowd chanted the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others who have been killed by police throughout the country.

When the crowd began to disperse from the park after a speaking program, the Boston Police Department moved in aggressively, causing several tense standoffs between protesters and police. As the mass gathering dispersed, groups of thousands continued to march and protest at police stations and the Massachusetts State House.

Meanwhile in Brockton, the heavily African American city just south of Boston, clashes between protesters and police were more intense. The Brockton protest, led by Black youth, brought together several thousand protesters outside of the city’s downtown police department. The police and National Guard unleashed teargas and batons on the protesters in a conflict that continued throughout the evening. Several downtown businesses had their windows smashed and a Dunkin’ Donuts near the police station was burned down.

These events follow fierce clashes between police and protesters in the streets of downtown Boston two nights earlier on May 31. On that night, a crowd of some 20,000 protesters marched into downtown Boston. Police clashed with protesters throughout the march. As they reached downtown, many protesters – principally led by Black youth – unleashed their anger on corporate storefronts and the police forces. Many windows were smashed, and a number of people helped themselves to items from the stores that mainly cater to wealthy downtown businesspeople. 21 police cruisers were damaged during the course of the night, including one that was set on fire and completely destroyed on Tremont Street.

Boston city officials have followed the example of other politicians throughout the country in blaming ‘outside agitators’ for the destruction of property and conflicts with the police. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh described the May 31 protesters as “people who came into our city and chose to engage in acts of destruction and violence, undermining their message.” Others have alleged on social media that police caused the damage in order to frame peaceful protesters. A video showing police smashing out the windshield of one of their own vehicles has been widely circulated as support of this narrative. What this video fails to show is the earlier scene of a multi-racial group of protesters standing on top of the vehicle and kicking in the windshield.

Both of these narratives fail to capture the realities of the sharp struggle unfolding in the streets of greater Boston. Protests have taken many forms, but all have been led by the people of Boston and most have been led by Black youth. Police have certainly instigated a good number of the street clashes and it is easy to imagine the Boston Police Department trying to frame protesters. But this is not the primary thing happening in Boston in this moment. The primary thing is that the people of Boston, and especially Black people, are saying that they have had enough. Enough violence at the hands of the Boston Police Department. Enough of reading the names of people murdered by police throughout the country. Inspired by the Minneapolis Uprising, they have spent the last week harnessing their rage into a movement that has city officials shaking in fear. If the numbers gathered on June 2 are any indication, that movement will continue to grow.