Black Lives Matter Protest Blocks Cambridge City Hall

Four people were arrested at a rally demanding more affordable housing.

Update 3:13 p.m.: Cambridge Police ended up arresting four protesters after all, bringing an end to an hours-long demonstration calling for increased access to affordable housing. Says department spokesman Jeremy Warnick via email: “Yes, we did arrest the four individuals without incident after making several attempts to receive cooperation and clear the front doors of City Hall. After blocking the doors this morning, they were moved to the side of the doors. They then moved themselves back in front of the doors an hour or so prior to an arrest being made.” Protesters have since left the area around City Hall. Black Lives Matter Cambridge on Facebook appealed to supporters to help cover the cost of posting bail.

Update 12:28 p.m.: Cambridge Police say that as of early afternoon, there have been no arrests, and according to spokesman Jeremy Warnick, the department does not plan on making any.

Previously: Four Black Lives Matter protesters blocked the entrance to Cambridge City Hall this morning—two of them by fastening bike locks around their necks and around the door handles at the building’s entrance.

Two others lay down in a group, connected to one another by their hands, which were inside red tubes.

“Cambridge City Hall is Condemned,” reads a leaflet from the rally, a picture of which was posted on Twitter. Protesters also pasted a bigger version of the hand-out on the building’s entrance.

Their demands:

Inclusionary Housing Program

We demand that the City Council require Market-rate residential developers, of more than 9 units, make at least 25 percent of the units affordable.

MIT Housing

We demand MIT is given a permit that allows them to build housing for its 5,500 graduate and postgraduate students who live off campus. Housing for those MIT students opens up more units for existing housing and provide family-size units.

Use Free Land

We demand that free land, such as parking lots and other city properties, are not sold to private developers but are used to build affordable housing and develop public spaces.

Establish a Rent to Own Program

We demand that a Rent to Own program is established in Cambridge. We believe that there needs to be a better and more defined pathway to homeownership for low income Cantabrigians.

The activists had requested an audience with City Councilors, and they got one. The Globe reports City Councilor Marc McGovern said he wouldn’t sign a pledge to meet the protester’s demands, but addressed the affordable housing issue to the crowd through a megaphone.

“It’s a delicate balance,” says McGovern, according to the Globe. “But I just want you to know that this is important to us, and we’ve been on this for a while.”

As they sat on the steps to the building, more protesters rallied around them.

As police worked to clear the scene, they chanted, quoting activist Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for freedom! It is our duty to win! We must love and support one another! We have nothing to lose but our chains!”

The demonstration accompanied a Pre-Work Speak-Out Rally hosted by Black Lives Matter Cambridge that invited people to “speak out about our experiences with housing.”

Traffic was also disrupted in the area following an unrelated bike accident. A bicycle rider collided with the door of a news truck parked on the side of the street, according to the Globe’s Steve Annear.