WORDS BY ZACK HUFFMAN | PHOTOS BY KEIKO HIROMI
A peaceful demonstration with an estimated tens of thousands of participants turned violent as night fell on downtown Boston Sunday. Most marchers had left the vicinity by the time things became unruly, but many remained.
A collection of young activists calling themselves Black Boston organized the event, which began around 6pm in the heart of Roxbury and saw demonstrators march from Nubian Square to the State House.
The plan was to end the protest at the foot of Beacon Hill, with thousands of marchers spread out on Boston Common. Following the formal finish, one of the organizers called out, “The police are here. They are dangerous. It is time to go home.”
At that point, around 9:30pm, most people began trickling away, but thousands remained. Shortly thereafter, police swarmed to the corner of Park and Tremont streets, resulting in some people getting pepper sprayed.
As the remaining crowd moved in and around Downtown Crossing and Park Street, police began closing off streets in the area, dividing the crowd. Service was also suspended at T stops in the area, causing many people to cram into buses and others to return to Boston Common.
In response to the pepper spray, some members of the crowd flipped large planters lining Tremont Street while others began breaking windows. One police cruiser was set on fire across the street from the Granary Burying Ground. Some fireworks were also set off.
In time, police blocked the narrow downtown streets around the Common, pushing protesters into the park. Officers repeatedly shot canisters of tear gas into the crowd, but many were thrown right back at the police. Two creative demonstrators ran up to the police line with battery-powered leaf blowers to redirect tear gas.
As midnight approached, the police continued pushing the crowd westward toward the edge of the Common. Tear gas wafted through the air along with the smell of burning trash from numerous cans that were set ablaze in the park.
Earlier in the day, there was another march featuring a few hundred people. This one started in front of Government Center before passing by the State House, around the Common and eventually looping around Copley Square and then back to the Common.
The march finished with everyone crowding into the northeast corner of the park. A half dozen protesters, who seemed to be leading the march, lay face-down for 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence in honor of George Floyd.
Afterwards, a bullhorn was passed around to random members of the crowd. One mother, who is black, said that she came out there with her eight-month-old because she was terrified about the potential danger police shootings that her son may face once he becomes a teenager.
“If we have to riot and destroy things to get change, then we’re going to destroy things to get change,” Mahira Louis said.
“A lot of people like to come out here and play the prophet,” said Peter Walker, an older black man who said he was heartened by the youth and diversity of the crowd. “I don’t know the fucking answer but it has to come from us.”