Hundreds March in the Name of Black Lives

A Black Lives Matter protest in 2014, photo by Emily Hopkins

Last night, about 600 protesters marched from Davis Square to the Mass Ave. bridge in a demonstration against police brutality. This follows a larger protest on Thursday that brought thousands to the Boston Common that shut down major roadways as well as Park Street Station.

Protests have erupted across the country in the wake of two grand jury decisions that chose not to indict white police officers for the killings of two black men. The first decision, announced on November 24, saw no indictment for Officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson, Mo., who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, in August. The second decision came from New York, where a grand jury decided not to indict a Staten Island police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner.

The march, which began at Tufts University, was set to hit Davis Square around 5 p.m., according to the Facebook event. Moments before 5p.m., MBTA police had shut down Davis Square Station and erected barriers around most of the entrances. Like clockwork, demonstrators arrived and quickly spread out, blocking all traffic through the square. They then staged a die-in for four and a half minutes, a minute, they said, for every hour that Michael Brown lay dead on the pavement.


Protesters shut down Davis Square on Friday

The group caused major disruptions along Mass Ave. as it made its way from Davis Square onto Porter, Harvard, and Central Squares, through MIT and onto the Mass Ave. bridge. At each square, they paused for another die-in. The crowd chanted now familiar phrases like “Black lives matter,” “hands up, don’t shoot,” and “I can’t breathe,” the latter of which were the last words spoken by Eric Garner before he died. Customers and employees poured from the shops along Elm St. and Mass Ave. Some of them cheered on the crowd while others heckled the protesters. But most people just stood, with mouths open, as they watched the sea of sound make its way through the streets.

The protesters saw little resistance from police until they approached the Mass Ave. bridge. There they met a line of police officers, many of them state troopers, who at first seemed unwilling to allow the group to take the bridge. The protesters called for “white allies” to come to the front and link arms. They chanted and stood their ground. After a few minutes, the police relented.

At the center of the bridge, the group formed a circle to hear from Amber Rose Johnson, one of the organizers. She told the crowd that they had marched through Somerville and Cambridge to send a message that this is not just a problem for the inner city of Boston. She said that they wanted to show the universities that there is work to do.

“This is not just a black problem. This is your problem,” she said. “We are going to go back to our universities and college campuses and continue this work.”