Six Activists Extricated From Cement-Filled Barrels During Protest
It was a recipe for civil action.
Activists who took part in an early morning protest that brought traffic to a standstill on I-93 southbound in Milton on Thursday held their ground on the highway by linking their arms through PVC pipes wedged into large, white barrels filled with red bricks and cement.
Using high-powered tools that sent sparks flying through the air, emergency responders spent more than an hour cutting through the makeshift means of resisting arrest before finally placing handcuffs on the activists.
“Several of these protesters chained themselves together by placing their arms in and through the 55 gallon barrels,” state police said of the incident. “The Milton Fire Department brought special cutting tools to aid in the effort and along with the specially trained members of the S.E.R.T. safely separated the protesters from the barrels.”
The protesters were part of the group “Black Lives Matter Boston,” and organized the event to “disrupt business as usual” and stand against the police and violence against black people, they said.
Because of their density—the barrels of cement and rock were estimated at 1,200-pounds apiece—it delayed police officers’ efforts to safely clear the interstate so commuters could drive through. “Throughout the removal process traffic on I-93 northbound…was stopped. This created an extensive traffic back-up during the morning commute,” according to police.
During a press conference with reporters, State Police Colonel Superintendent Timothy Alben said a total of six people who linked arms through the barrels had to be extracted with the special machinery. “Those required the individuals to be literally cut out of them. In other words, cut the metal skin of the barrel away and then demolish the concrete,” he said.
He said they put both their own lives, as well as the lives of others, at risk as they chiseled away at the cement with saws and hammers.
“People’s rights are people’s rights, but you’re endangering people’s lives with this kind of conduct,” said Alben, adding that ambulances had to be diverted because of the protest.
State Police posted images of the barrels on their Facebook page following the arrests Thursday morning, which showed all of the materials used to create the heavy blockades. According to police, protesters transported the barrels in a rental truck before they unloaded them from the back of the vehicle and stretched them across the busy highway. An additional two people were arrested in Braintree later in the day on Thursday while they were returning the vehicle used to transport protesters and the barrels, police said.
In Milton, police made a total of 11 arrests, including the six people tied inside of the large barrels. An additional 18 people were arrested and arraigned in Somerville District Court after holding a similar protest, sans barrels, on I-93 northbound in Medford, according to officers. Protesters are facing various charges including resisting arrest, trespassing, and disorderly conduct.