Majority of Black Lives Matter Protesters Avoid Jail After Blocking Highway

14 of the 18 protesters will not see the inside of a jail cell.

Black Lives Matter protesters blocking I-93 in January 2015. Photo via Mass. State Police

Black Lives Matter protesters blocking I-93 in January 2015. Photo via Mass. State Police

The vast majority of Black Lives Matter protesters responsible for shutting down I-93 on a cold January morning will not face any jail time.

A judge in a Somerville District Court handed down sentences of 60 hours of community service for 14 of the so-called Somerville 18 on Thursday.

The only outlet that covered the hearing, WGBH, reported the sentences delivered by Judge Maurice Flynn were issued in exchange for the 14 activists accepting responsibility for their actions, which snarled traffic for hours, incited heated discussion across the city, and prompted calls for action on Beacon Hill. Their protest was cited by emergency crews who had to divert ambulances bound for Boston off highways and onto the city’s notoriously congested side streets. Their actions did not win them many fans and left even the most seasoned activists scratching their heads.

The protesters blocked traffic on I-93 in Milton and Medford, but their actions in Milton were far more successful, if you want to define their actions as such, because they locked arms through tubes connected to barrels filled to the brim with concrete. Police had to separate many of the protesters with high-powered saws before moving them out of the way of oncoming traffic and arresting them.

The group explained their actions at the time as a shot across the bow of institutional racism:

The two groups of activists organized these actions to use their collective voices to resist and disrupt the overarching system that oppresses Black people and to expressly accept the responsibility of white and non-Black people of color to organize and act to end racial profiling, unjust incarceration, and murder of Black people in the United States and beyond. Black lives matter, today and always.

As for the four other members of the Somerville 18, three are taking their case to trial in December and one had had the case continued without a finding prior to Thursday. The three protesters going to trial could face up to 45 days in jail for their actions.

A request for Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan was not returned at press time. We will add her comments if and when we receive them.