Thousands Protest During Tree Lighting

Protesters gather at the Boston Common Tree Lighting. (Haiyun Jiang/ BU News Service)
Protesters gather on Boston Common as the annual tree lighting ceremony went on. (Haiyun Jiang/ BU News Service)

By Meggie Quackenbush
BU News Service

Thousands of demonstrators gathered on the Boston Common during the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony last night to protest what they see as the failure of America’s criminal justice system in two recent cases involving police killings of black men.

Boston police estimated that close to 3,000 people came out last night to protest grand jury decisions not to indict a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teen, and a New York officer in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed father of six.

Despite a handful of arrests, the crowd remained calm but charged as chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “No justice, no peace” overpowered the sound of holiday songs and performances by local music groups and entertainers on the center stage.

Marilyn Richardson, of Watertown, said she came to the demonstration in hopes of raising national consciousness about what she called a “pivotal moment” in American history.

Richardson, who said she was proud to have been arrested by Boston Police in protests in the 1980s, said that this is “a moment when anyone of good conscience should stand up and be counted.”

“I think it’s important that people not lose sight of the momentum that’s building in the wake of the incredible break-down of the grand jury system,” she said.

Northeastern student Madison Solomon, 19, said she came to the Common last night to watch both the tree lighting and the protests. She found the lack of indictment in the Brown and Garner cases frustrating, saying, “It’s just wrong.”

As the crowd of demonstrators swelled, Boston Police officers barred anyone from entering a fenced-off area close to the center stage. Protesters began moving in droves toward the State House and down Tremont Street toward Government Center, chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, these racist cops have got to go.”

Carmen Moucon, 35, of Arlington, said she sees injustice and racism in the criminal justice system as a problem facing the entire country.

“I’m here tonight because for too many times we’ve seen the system not act in a way of justice towards black people,” Moucon said.

She said she had nothing but negative interactions with police officers in the past, saying she felt police have failed to treat her as a full citizen of this country.

“It’s just a point now where we need to change the perspective of blacks in America and really recognize that we are equal citizens under the law, and the law needs to be able to protect us,” Moucon said.

Throughout the evening, demonstrators marched to Government Center, Faneuil Hall, and TD Garden, with some even reaching the Massachusetts Turnpike and others closing down the Park Street MBTA station.

The crowd remained relatively peaceful despite blocking traffic while staging mass “die-ins” on the streets of Downtown Boston.

Hubert Murray of Boston said he stopped by a die-in in front of the Old State House on his way home from work because of his anger with the American justice system.

“I think the most recent example in Staten Island is outrageous. It undermines the faith one has in the institutions of society, never mind the individual injustice,” Murray said.

Murray said he found the demonstration buoying, saying that seeing a young, diverse crowd was particularly hopeful to him.

“In my generation, we used to be active, and it’s so heartening to see another generation take it on. This is unfinished business,” he said.


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