Boston Advocates Rally for Police Accountability; Send Representatives to Ferguson
BOSTON/Roxbury - The Boston Coalition for Police Accountability, a newly minted activist group in Boston comprised of members from over 40 local equal rights organizations including the Massachusetts chapter of the ACLU, Black Lives Matter, GLAAD, and Hollaback Boston, held its first rally outside the Boston Police Department headquarters on Schroeder Plaza Thursday night in response to a recently released stop and frisk data report that showed that Boston police officers were initiating interactions with black Bostonians at a much higher rate than with white residents.
The rally, led by the ACLU’s King Downing, was convened to both vocalize the aims and demands of the coalition in response to racial profiling and as a send-off for local representatives driving to Ferguson, Mo., to take part in the Weekend of Resistance; a collective movement being made to protest the August 9 killing of Michael Brown and racially biased police brutality nationwide.
“I am mad at what’s been going on,” Downing said. “We have to take action. This has gone on too long.”
The Boston Coalition for Police Accountability called for three immediate reforms to be made by Boston police and Mayor Walsh.
One, that all officers wear body worn cameras; two, that receipts be issued documenting the who, where, when and why whenever there is police-civilian interaction, and three that the data from police-civilian interaction receipts be made public immediately.
“We shouldn’t have to search it out,” said Nashwa Gewaily, a legal fellow with the ACLU who announced the coalition’s demanded reforms. “These (three reforms) can be implemented now. We don’t have to wait. The time is now,” she said.
To underscore the importance of immediate change within Boston policing procedures the crowd gathered was asked to take a moment to reflect on the lives of Burrell “Bo” Ramsey-White, Mark McMullen and Denis Reynoso, all shot and killed by local law enforcement in the last three years.
Reynoso, McMullen and Ramsey-White, all black, were unarmed and non-violent when they were killed, King said.
Members of the crowd with personal stories of racial profiling and discrimination also came forward to share their experiences. Each story outlined an unnecessary stop and search where police questioned the ownership of the vehicle even when the driver had proof of insurance and registration.
When asked if she knew why she was in handcuffs Tyree Ware, a community organizer at the Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project, said she told police officers “because I’m black.”
“My aunt told me I shouldn’t have said that,” Ware said, “but it was the truth.”
The floor was later given to Carla Sheffield, Bo’s mother, who voiced her grief over the death of her son and the frustration at the lack of action being taken by the city against the officer who shot him.
“I can’t yell and scream because they’ll say I’m an angry black women,” she said. “I’m here as an angry mother. My son is not here because an overzealous cop pulled my son over for a routine stop…and killed him like an animal.”
“My son is not here, you can’t bring him back, and I want justice,” Sheffield said. “Accountability should be first and foremost.”
Editor's Note: In response to a request for comment from Open Media Boston, Sergeant Michael P. McCarthy, director of the Boston Police Department Office of Media Relations, sent a BPD statement on the release of the American Civil Liberties Union's report on BPD stop and frisk policies. We have run the statement in full as an article in the public interest.
Text: Haley Hamilton
Photo: Leonardo March