On Saturday morning, I woke up, brushed my teeth, ate breakfast, and prepared for the protest.
Photo credit: Boston Globe
I been to protests and marches before, but this was the first one I decided to attend alone. Naturally, I got lost, but my intuition told me to follow the large group of police officers. I did not know how they would feel if I asked them for directions. Finally, I made it and for once in my life, I was on time, 12pm at the Massachusetts State House. At first, I was unsure, I was one of the only few black individuals in a majority white crowd. As I was discussing this with an older woman in the crowd, she said, “This is your movement, we do not want the mic and we do not want to take the lead. We are here to support you all.” It made me smile. Overtime, the demographics began to change. The demonstration began with words from victims of police brutality and racial profiling. We each had our stories. Then we began to shout:
BLACK LIVES MATTER. BLACKS LIVES MATTER. BLACK LIVES MATTER. BLACK LIVES MATTER. BLACKS LIVES MATTER.
Following the series of speakers, we were given a few ground rules and started to march. People were around us with green hats, I would later learn that these were members of a lawyer’s guild. The police led us in the front and surrounded us at all times. Cool, I thought, I would later learn that they were simply monitoring our movement to avoid protesters shutting down the highway. There were also helicopters in the sky following us at all times.
Photo credits; Boston Globe
THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE. THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE. THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.
The march began and I quickly made my way to the front. I wanted to see what the people around us were doing. I wanted to look at the people behind me. I wanted to be in the moment while watching it unfold before my eyes. It was an indescribable moment.
NO JUSTICE NO PEACE NO RACIST POLICE IF WE DONT GET IT SHUT IT DOWN IF WE DONT GET IT SHUT IT DOWN
As we moved on, we were met by our first barricade of police officers who blocked us off from the highway. There we demonstrated our first die in. Then we heard from the grandfather of a young man who was murdered by the Boston police.
WHO DO YOU PROTECT? WHO DO YOU SERVE? WHO DO YOU PROTECT? WHO DO YOU SERVE?
We proceeded to march on. Ironically, we were allowed to march through traffic. As people sat in their vehicles we marched alongside them chanting and clapping. Only a few honked their horns in solidarity. We made our way pass the Suffolk County Jail and the prisoners pounded against their windows in protest. They were our biggest supporters with their fist in the air, most of these men were black.
THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED. THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED.
As we rounded the jail, there stood a long row of officers. Officers in full gear stood in front of the steps of the jail and others stood blocking the road. At this point, I realized the protest was taking a turn for the worst, yet I remained in the front.
We walked toward the line of officers. There was a young girl beside me walking up to them as well. The officers smiled. Then an altercation broke out between protesters and officers. I told her mother she might want to move her elsewhere. We were told to make lines and link arms. At first no one was on my left, but then I heard someone say, “I am with you sister!”. Thank God. A New Yorker who grew up with Gardner expressed his frustration his anger. People yelled. The main officer said, “Do not engage.” For the first time in my life, I was face to face with an officer, a lot of officers. I could see more uniformed men and women coming in on city buses and the National Guard arrive, large weapons at their sides. Zip-tie handcuffs were on each officers waist. I put my hands up and said to the officer in front of me, “I am not doing anything wrong and I will keep my hands up.” Everyone in the front row quickly put their hands up as well.
HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT. HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT. HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT. HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT.
Someone was told to shut up, I am pretty sure by an officer, and my, the protester had something to say to whoever did so. As people continued to shout and yell, the main officer began to tell his men in the front (no ladies were there) to pull down their shields, they steadied their batons to their waist and the push battle began. As protesters pushed to march on, officers pushed back to hold their lines. Guess who was smack in the center, the front row. The officers were quickly joined by more forces and people began to be arrested, yet they did not go down without a fight. One young woman was taken down by at least four officers. Then, I fell. We were all linked together so when one fell we all did. I did not panic, I did not freak out. I was calm, I knew I was not going to die and I kept my hands up even when I went down. They would have no justifiable reason to arrest me. I caught the end of the baton on my side and I was stepped on. The guy beside me helped us all up. In the midst of it all, I saw an older lady reach out to grab my hand. I looked young and I am sure fear was on my face. I grabbed hold of her and never let go. Then everything stopped. The main officer went to me and the older woman and asked if we wanted to be moved to the side. I stared at him, my eyes answered his question. “Okay, then,” he stated, “Remember, it was your call.” I asked the lady if she was okay and gave her some water. She cried and hugged surrounding emotional protesters. We slowly walked away from the police, but not before chanting we would be back and see you later.
Photo credits: Boston Globe
We marched on until 4pm. Then it was over. I felt strange. Yes, I was in pain, but mentally, my mind was in a million places. What did we accomplish? Are we just going home? What are people doing? Outsiders were shopping, pointing, and taking videos. Some jokingly joined us for a moment while their friends held up cameras laughing. No one cares. Even as I talked to people the next day, they talked about how disruptive the protesters were. They don’t understand. It was a stand against police brutality and systematic injustices. Not all cops are racist. We know. Not all cops are bad. I know. People are tired of being racially profiled, people are tired of black men and women being killed by police brutality. If I had the chance to do it again, I would. If I could protest everyday, I would. BUT, I will not only protest. I will attend forums and events. I will push for dialogue between protesters and the Boston Police. I will press on and show this city what true democracy looks like. The protests are just one aspect of the movement. Say what you want, but I was proud to be there with a united mass of people.
My sister also took part in the Millions March in NYC. Although we were miles apart, we were doing the same thing at the same time. My mother was upset, yet proud. “Just protest at home, so I know where to bail you out”, she said. No worries for their is a protest to investigate the death of Lennon Lacy and I will be there.
Until the next post,