Nearly a year after the death of George Floyd touched off dozens of local protests, about 200 demonstrators marched Saturday from Roxbury to Boston Common to call for justice for another Black man killed by police in Minnesota, Duante Wright, who was shot during a traffic stop earlier this month.
“At some point, enough is enough,” organizer Ernst Jean-Jacques told GBH News. “We’re here to bring light to this case, and to the countless situations just like it here in Massachusetts.”
As protesters went from Nubian Square to the Boston Common bandstand, they chanted the names of victims of police violence, including Floyd, Wright, Ahmaud Arbery, a victim of a police shooting in February of last year, and Terrence Coleman, a mentally ill Black man who was killed by Boston Police in 2016. The crowd also recited the name of Moses Harris, a young Black man who disappeared and died in the Merrimack River, 30 miles north of Boston, after being pursued by police last December.
“You are not strong despite being Black or in spite of it, but because of it,” Mateo Rojas of Boston told the crowd. “You are beautiful because you are Black, you are beautiful because you are Indigeoneous, and no system of white men with no idea what they’re talking about can take that away from you. Remember that.”
The protest was organized by the Freedom Fighters Coalition, a local activist group that led protests across Boston last summer following the deaths of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police in Kentucky. Jean-Jacques said protests need to resume so that people “do not become complacent” and public pressure continues.
“I can't promise what you're going to see from the people, but I can tell you that I'm going to do everything in my power to continue to combat against police brutality,” Jean-Jacques said. “But I'm confident, just based on this protest today, that it's going to be an interesting summer.”
Protesters called on local government officials to abolish police departments across Massachusetts and replace them with “community-led public safety systems.”
“We need a system that serves the public, I don't necessarily know what that looks like, but what we have currently is not it,” Jean-Jacques said. “There needs to be care in the community.”
The group also demanded that school resource officers who have police powers be replaced with social workers and mental health counselors, qualified immunity for officers be ended, and the use of tear gas and pepper spray be banned in the state.
Before the crowd peacefully dispersed, a series of speakers called for the redistribution of funds from police departments into other local organizations and groups.
“Black people's lives and suffering are quite literally reduced to nothing, to screams in the void, because that is what the pigs and the state see us as,” Yari Dudley of Boston told the crowd, standing on the bandstand steps. “Anyone who aligns with us, they see as nothing. So all of you that are here right now that are not Black, they see you as nothing. You have just as much as a reason to fight, and you have just as much of a responsibility to fight.”
“I want you to repeat after me,” Dudley said into a megaphone before echoing Malcolm X. “Liberation — by any means necessary. By any means necessary.”