On Saturday, amid the window-shoppers and diners enjoying omelets out on Newbury Street, about 150 protestors converged to raise awareness for the value of African American lives. Members of Black Lives Matter Boston disrupted the steady flow of Saturday traffic to raise signs and voices in solidarity with protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and other places.
The protestors marched on the sidewalks and briefly blocked an intersection as they chanted slogans like "Whose streets? Our streets." The protest was organized on Facebook, and covered on platforms like Twitter and Vine.
The Rev. Irene Monroe was headed to the Boston Book Festival when she came across the protest. "You had the cops all around and stuff, and you began to see a menacing tension escalating," Monroe recounted on Boston Public Radio. "One woman (...) said to me, 'Why can't you folks take your protest somewhere else?'" Monroe said. "She said to me, 'On such a tony street as Newbury, (...) why for God's Heaven would you have a protest. (...) You could've gone to Boylston Street.'"
Monroe cited biased policing as a flash-point for Saturday's protests. Recently, the Boston Police Department came under fire when the American Civil Liberties Union said the BPD unfairly targeted people of color, a charge the department disputed.
The Rev. Emmett G. Price III said it was a varied coalition — not just African Americans — that took to the street with signs. "They weren't just black people that were out there. They were people of different hues, ethnicities, beliefs, gender expressions, different types of people who were there in solidarity with the event, making a stance."
Monroe said real power would come when disparate activist groups coordinated more closely. "You don't have the LGBT folks coming out saying that [racial justice] ties to transgender rights. We don't have the folks that come out [against] climate change saying, 'Yes, what's going on racially also is tied to climate change,'" Monroe said.
"Newbury Street is a place to get lost -- to go get lost in the accoutrements of life, to go get lost in the higher economic status." --Rev. Emmett G. Price III
Price thought the protestors' choice of venue was effective. "They picked Newbury Street during brunch hour. (...) Newbury Street is a place to get lost — to go get lost in the accoutrements of life, to go get lost in the higher economic status," Price said. "Blocking off Newbury Street [demanded] attention [from] people who probably don't usually care."
"It stopped business," Monroe agreed. "This is why these people are [on Newbury Street]. What we're looking for is that turning point."
Monroe said ultimately what happened on Saturday shows the racial justice movement still faces an uphill climb. "What will be that spark? A couple of times we thought it would be Trayvon Martin. We also thought it would be Michael Brown, the Ferguson case. We're still searching," Monroe said. "We're trying to find a lynchpin."