Here’s What Black Lives Matter Protesters Had to Say at the BPD Headquarters Rally
Protesters began the Black Lives Matter Rally Wednesday night by chanting:
“SAME STORY EVERY TIME,
BEING BLACK IS NOT A CRIME”
Videos recording the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Alva Braziel have directed public attention and outrage to the dangers of police brutality, particularly for toward black Americans. The killings have taken place nationwide, but each act of violence hits close to home—especially for past victims and families harmed by Boston Police. One Wednesday, huge crowds marched from the Boston Police Headquarters to the headquarters of Mass Action Against Police Brutality. But first, the marchers gathered together in solidarity to listen as some affected most intimately spoke out.
More than a thousand people went out to demand justice and show support for victims. Some estimates run as high as two thousand. Tamar Nicolas (pictured below) was among them. “I’m here because I want to be on the right side of things, and what’s going on is an injustice,” she said. “This is about the human race.”
“TAKE A SIDE, TAKE A STAND,
JUSTICE FOR SANDRA BLAND”
Tahia Sykes, an organizer for Mass Action Against Police Brutality, was the first to take the mic. “I thank everyone for coming out. This is what it should look like every time someone loses their life by the hand of the state,” she said. “People say that it doesn’t matter that you march. I disagree…I am bothered by the senseless killings, but I’m bothered by the complacency of it all.”
Sykes honored all of the many victims, both locally and nationally, recently and in the past. The rally occurred on the anniversary of one notable victim’s death. On July 13, 2015, Sandra Bland was found, hanging in a jail cell after being arrested for a minor traffic violation. Police claimed that she committed suicide, but many remained suspicious, seeing injustice in her death. “Sandra Bland was everything that we should be,” Sykes said.
“WE KNOW WHAT WE SAW,
CHANGE THE SYSTEM, CHANGE THE LAW”
Before welcoming new speakers to the platform, another Mass Action Against Police Brutality organizer named Brock Satter announced the group’s demands, which welcomed cheers from the crowd:
“Arrest and charge all officers in the Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Alva Braziel cases: Baton Rouge officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, St. Paul officer Jeronimo Yanez, Houston officers L. Lopez and E. Macias.
“Remove all elected officials who justify racist police terror.
“Stop the systematic intimidation of witnesses and family members in police involved abuse and killings by law enforcement.
“Release all videotapes in its entirety of each incident of police involved killings (such as but not limited to Usaamah Rahim and Randolph McClain).
“Reopen past cases of state sanctioned murders and review by a special appointed prosecutor.”
“OLD JIM CROW, NEW JIM CROW,
THIS RACIST SYSTEM’S GOT TO GO”
Satter called for change at all levels, from police officers to lawyers court officials: “They all play a role in justifying this genocide.” He believed that protests like this are the only way to fight back. “We organize mass actions to bring the weight of the majority of people to bear on the government. We believe there are billions of people out in this country who reject what’s going on, who don’t like what’s happening. But not everyone’s out in the streets yet,” Satter said. “All of us individually need to step into the ring. We all have to take a stake in changing this.”
Satter then welcomed Shahina Rahim to the stage, whose brother, Usaamah Rahim, was shot by police officers in June 2015 in the parking lot of a Roslindale CVS. Usaamah Rahim was accused of terrorist actions and plots to behead a police officer, but those accusations have not been substantiated, as he never stood a trial. “It was unjust, how they surrounded him and shot him down like a dog. It was unjust,” Shahina says.
Shahina’s son, David Wright, is also in prison, suspected to be Usaamah’s accomplice. But his family is left in the dark.“We still don’t know what the reasons are, but it’s a definite coverup,” his mother says.
“INDICT. CONVICT. SEND THOSE KILLER COPS TO JAIL.
THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM IS GUILTY AS HELL.”
Carla Sheffield—another Boston-area woman who has lost family members at the hands of the police—spoke next. Her son Burrell Ramsey-White was shot in 2012. The officer was not indicted.
“It’s sad that I’m standing here again almost four years to my son’s anniversary. I’m an emotional mess right now, but when I look out here and see everyone who’s standing up for all lives, black lives that matter, that gives me strength,” his mother said. “The fact that we’re here and children are still dropping at the hands of police officers hurts my heart so bad. I don’t know what it’s going to take, but as long as we keep coming out and showing up, we’re going to get what we need.”
Sheffield shared a poem she wrote to process her grief that concluded with, “Then to tell me my child’s death wasn’t violent? / It was to me because my life was silenced.”
“SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE”
“THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE”
Mary Holmes shared that she also felt silenced. In March 2014, just months after moving to Boston to pursue her education, Holmes came across an officer berating an elderly woman at a T stop. Holmes knew she had to say something: “This was somebody’s grandmother.” The argument escalated, and though Holmes remained peaceful, the officers pepper-sprayed her in the eyes and beat her with a metal baton while her children watched and onlookers failed to intervene. “This is how I got acquainted with Boston.”
The officers initially claimed that Holmes had attacked them, but later MBTA footage emerged and revealed their lie. These officers were indicted, but still Holmes struggled to find peace. “I’m left with life. Do you know how long I wished they would have taken mine too?”
However, in the solidarity of the crowd, Holmes appeared resilient, calling the protesters her neighbors. “I appreciate you all. I appreciate the move,” she said. “This is my justice.”
“SHOW ME WHAT COMMUNITY LOOKS LIKE”
“THIS IS WHAT COMMUNITY LOOKS LIKE”
Tahia Sykes was moved to tears. She returned to the microphone to support Holmes. “There is no reason why anyone—anyone—should ever have to deal with that. Sister, I love you, I’m sorry.”
The protesters finished the chant in unison, supporting black lives in Boston and everywhere:
“SHOW ME WHAT A FAMILY LOOKS LIKE”
“THIS IS WHAT A FAMILY LOOKS LIKE”