Metro, Top Story, Boston

Protesters Fill Boston Common In Response To Eric Garner Case

Upwards of 3,000 demonstrators made their way to the streets of Boston Thursday night, protesting the decision not to indict the officer involved in the alleged homicide of Eric Garner.

Didi Delgado paces from side to side, shuffling between the crowds of protestors on Thursday night. She talks to me in between breaths, gasping for air, while frantically waving her hands in a circular motion—trying to garner as much attention as possible. Delgado is wearing a neon orange construction vest, and despite her diminutive presence, her voice echoes across Boston Common, as thousands of protestors follow her lead.

“Everybody to the left,” Delgado said. “Everybody go to city plaza. They are blocking us over here, and we have to keep moving.”

Delgado directed a crowd toward Government Center, where thousands of people gathered, chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “Black lives matter” in response to the grand jury decision not to indict the New York City police officer involved in the alleged homicide of 42-year-old Eric Garner.

“We never expected this many people to come out in solidarity,” Delgado said. “Everybody here is passionate to show that black lives matter, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Delgado is a member of the organizational team responsible for Thursday’s event, titled “#EnoughIsEnough: We Are the Ones, Justice for Eric Garner.” The gathering was first publicized through Facebook, and more than 7,000 people “attended” the protest, according to the page.

“I saw the event was spreading like crazy across Facebook and I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” said Liann Ammar, a junior at Northeastern University.

At approximately 7 p.m., nearly 3,000 protestors gathered in Boston Common—according to estimates from the Boston Police Department—in midst of the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Guard rails and a strong police presence separated protestors from the stage of the ceremony, as chants of “We can’t breathe,” and “This is what democracy looks like,” reverberated through the Common during an a capella performance of “Jingle Bells” on stage.

“I’m really glad there is a counterpoint to the other things going on here tonight,” said Michelle Carter, a professor at Northern Essex Community College. “To me, this doesn’t seem like a night to be celebrating the holidays. I’d like to see change. I’d like to see trials for the police officers.”

By the time the tree lights went up shortly before 8 p.m., protestors marched toward the State House, many wearing t-shirts and holding signs with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” As protesters neared the State House, a group of three individuals were arrested as they attempted to penetrate a line of Boston police officers.

“We were all in the Common and turning onto Bowdoin St. when the police separated a huge portion of the group,” said Kate Perry, a graduate student in the school of public health at Boston University. “I saw some people try and jump the fence at the State House, and they all got arrested.”

Over the next few hours, the protesters marched to various sections of Downtown Boston, closing streets near Beacon Hill, South Station, TD Garden, the Mass. Turnpike and I-93. The demonstrators also blocked traffic near the ramp toward I-93 for several minutes, as well as areas in Charlestown and Cambridge. Shortly after 10 p.m., a die-in demonstration shut down the Green Line at the Park Street Station for about an hour, according to the MBTA.

Marchers periodically stopped to sit or lie down in the street—referred to as “die-ins,”—mimicking deaths similar to Garner’s. Additionally, some smaller groups diverged form the main protest, only to rejoin later in the evening.

Throughout the protests, hundreds of police in bright yellow jackets monitored the actions of the demonstrators. Many officers closely followed the crowd on bike, while the remainder trailed the group on foot. There were very few confrontations between the protesters and the police, while many marchers carried mirrors and signs displaying their aggression toward law enforcement. Boston Police declined to comment on the event.

“We could see the lines of police officers lined up in the Common outside of our dorm room windows, while people were laying down on the ground,” said Jessica Santana, a freshman at Suffolk University. “Overall, the police seemed very cooperative throughout all the craziness tonight.”

The demonstration Thursday night came a week after 1,500 Bostonians blocked streets, protesting a similar controversial grand jury case in Ferguson, Missouri, where a grand jury chose not to indict a policeman for the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

“The goal of tonight was to raise awareness for this issue and make something happen,” Delgado said. “I hope solidarity comes around our country, and we truly come together and realize this affects all of us.”

Featured Images by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor

December 5, 2014