Boston participation in Black Lives Matter at School Week criticized by police union

"Groups like Black Lives Matter, by inaccurately demonizing police as racists who kill innocent people, have made policing more dangerous than ever before."

Boston College graduate student John Gabelus listens during a 2017 rally at Boston College.
Boston College graduate student John Gabelus listens during a 2017 rally at Boston College. –Craig F. Walker / Globe Staff, File

The Boston Teachers Union decided to kick off Black History Month by participating in Black Lives Matter at School Week, which drew a letter from the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association condemning the move.

In the letter dated Feb. 3 — addressed to Jessica Tang, the teachers union president — Michael Leary, president of the patrolmen’s association, says the teachers should “reconsider” participating in the week of activities. Black Lives Matter is an “anti-police organization whose activities have the effect of making my members less safe,” the letter says, as posted online by WBZ.

Activities on the itinerary for the week of events, which took place all last week, included wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt or button on Monday, speaking to the school committee on Wednesday, teaching a lesson out of the Black Lives Matter Week curriculum, and celebrating Black educators.

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“Policing has always been a dangerous profession, but groups like Black Lives Matter, by inaccurately demonizing police as racists who kill innocent people, have made policing more dangerous than ever before,” Leary’s letter says. “Instead of examining the facts of specific shooting incidents, the Black Lives Matter movement oversimplifies and generalizes, leading its followers to distrust police and, in more and more cases, to do them harm.”

The letter sparked a response from the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, or MAMLEO, which released a statement in conjunction with the Boston branch of the NAACP. The statement notes that the organizations are “deeply concerned” by Leary’s letter.

The statement notes that the action week is centered on four points, and not all MAMLEO members support the fourth, which is “fund counselors not cops.” But the statement notes that members believe the other three points – hiring more Black teachers, including Black history and ethnic studies in elementary through high school, and ending “zero tolerance discipline” while instituting “restorative justice in schools” – are key.

“Police officers are not a monolithic group,” part of the statement says. “There are many police officers who understand the ideals and values behind BLM and align themselves with BLM and other social justice organizations. We do not believe BLM is synonymous with ‘anti-police.’ In fact, we believe that BLM is a reflection of the historical mistreatment of Black and brown people in this country, not only by law enforcement but also by a culture that has quietly undermined the value of the lives of Black and brown people.”

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Tang told The Boston Globe in a statement that 40 other cities were participating in the week of activities.

“Through our participation, we’re demonstrating support, love, and affirmation to our Black students, families, and educators,” Tang told the newspaper.

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