On Sunday, thousands of protesters marched in the Boston Common to demanding justice for George Floyd, the Black man killed in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, and to speak out against police brutality. The protests were peaceful for hours, but violence erupted in the evening as businesses were damaged or looted, and police officers used tear gas and pepper spray on crowds. Since Sunday, peaceful protests have been held across the state. We asked readers who attended the demonstrations to share their stories. Here are six accounts from protesters about what they experienced.
Some responses have been edited for length and clarity
I marched with the peaceful demonstration
“I marched with the peaceful demonstration from the South End to the State House. For several hours I felt buoyed by the support of hundreds of people who were all speaking out for a just cause. The feelings of pain, sadness, and frustration were overwhelming, but the feelings of community and empowerment were also powerful. People made their voices heard while others shared water bottles, snacks, masks, and hand sanitizer. As a long time Boston resident and Boston teacher I feel proud to have been a part of this peaceful demonstration and hopeful that it would send a message that systemic change is long overdue in our country. I have been very disappointed in the coverage of this event by the Globe. The focus has been on a very small period of time and a very small group of people who took the peaceful demonstration in a different direction. I live in the immediate area around the park and the hours of peaceful and meaningful community activism were far greater and more important than the violence afterward.” — Lauren Huff
‘Our voices rose as one’
“I arrived at Government Center at 3 p.m. and was met by, I would guess, about a thousand peaceful protesters who, in large part, carried signs, wore black (and their face masks). Our voices rose as one as we chanted “No justice. No peace!” Later those words would come back to haunt us.” — Susan Abbattista
Everyone we came across was polite and civil
“We were very close to the state house so we could see the speakers and the officers on the lawn clearly. There were thousands of people protesting peacefully. Everyone was wearing masks and everyone we came across was polite and civil. The chants for the officers to “take a knee and show you care” were ignored as did not one officer acknowledge the plea for understanding. That was the saddest part of the day. We saw one white kid up on a structure start to try and destroy it and the crowd shouted ‘no’ and stopped him. We started to leave about 8 and were waiting for a cab when we started hearing sirens. I don’t know who started the violence but I can say it was not the thousands of people who came there to protest peacefully.” — Sherri Dockrey
We had the horrible realization that the MBTA had been shut down
“Sunday afternoon, my friends and I joined what must have been THOUSANDS of other people in a March from Nubian Square to The State House in Boston. People of all different ages, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, cultural backgrounds, and various other “divisive qualities” came together for a peaceful protest. And despite what the media will tell you, that is exactly what it was…peaceful…We witnessed one (white) man take a sharpie to a window…however, the entire crowd around him stopped to call him out and remind him that was NOT what we were there for. We were not there to destroy anything, or to cause violence…and outside of that isolated incident, I did not even see anyone so much as litter a single piece of trash the entire day…As night began to fall, protesters dispersed, and we started to try and make our way back home.
That is when we had the horrible realization that the MBTA had been shut down, by order of the police. As my friends and I stood alongside countless others, trying to figure out another way home, police in riot gear began swarming Boston Common in droves. First came the dozens upon dozens of cops on bikes, at which point we realized they were most likely going to attempt to make a mass arrest. Before we could even begin to run, even more cops on motorcycles began surrounding us. Then came the cruisers, flying into the Common at ridiculous speeds, without any hesitation before plowing into crowds of trapped, innocent people who just wanted to go home. They tear gassed us. They pepper sprayed us. They fired rubber bullets at us. They hit us with their cars. They ATTACKED us. Without any prompting. We were TRYING TO GO HOME.” — Liam Finnigan
Why can we arm the police yet I still don’t have adequate protection at work?
“I’m a white woman, a single mom, a nurse, a student and I am sick and tired of the systemic racism that infiltrated our society worse than covid 19. I have seen the effects of covid, I know who is getting sick – people of color, disabled and elderly, the poor. Why can we arm the police yet I still don’t have adequate protection at work? Yesterday, we were peaceful AND angry. Businesses were boarding up ling [sic] before it turned violent, they knew what to expect. I don’t blame people for acting out when the police come in and start engaging in violent tactics to disperse a peaceful crowd. We are NOT a police state.” — Jennifer Beers
All races seemed to present, and of all ages
“I got off at Chinatown and accompanied my friends down to the state house. This was perhaps the largest crowd of people I have ever witnessed in my life, all wearing black, many with backpacks, almost wearing some form [of] a mask. The crowd was not limited to any identity: all races seemed to present, and of all ages. As we made our way to [the] state house, we chanted phrases such “Black Lives Matter”, “Say his name! George Floyd”, etc. We continued chanting during the state house with various moments where we kneeled. There was no fighting. There was no looting or rioting. Some people did set some fireworks off. The demonstration itself was peaceful until the police arrived around 9Pm.
Demonstrators began leaving at this point. Most people were making their way down Tremont Street toward the AMC theatre as the police were blocking the downtown crossing station. A couple individuals, all white, began heckling with the police. One of them set fire to a cop car. The police retaliated with tear gas and rubber bullets. I ran down Tremont street with my friends at the time, people were screaming, tear gas was continuing to be thrown at us (even though most of us were running away from them).
My Impression: I cannot underscore this enough: this was perhaps one of the most powerful, peaceful, and unusual protest demonstration I have / will experience in my life. Everyone that was there was aware of the George Floyd murder, and police brutality toward black people, but from the faces of the crowd, you wouldn’t believe this. It’s hard, at least from experience, to ever come across such a unifying injustice – in particular when that injustice is targeting one particular minority group. The closest I’ve seen to a protest like this, in Boston, was after the Parkland shootings. This was at least 3x as large as that one…Moreover, this was all done in the backdrop of the coronavirus. Almost everyone was wearing a mask. The few groups I’ve found who weren’t, were often African American – the reasoning being that covering their faces has shown to have deadly consequences with the police. Hand sanitizers, gloves, and water were commonly passed around. Everyone was aware of the virus, and was doing their part to protest in these circumstances.
The demonstration was incredibly peaceful and I hope that this gets mentioned more than [the] altercation that ended it.” — Raique Pereira
Have you attended one of the protests in the last few days? Share your experience below or email us at [email protected].