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‘I’m not a Black man that is going to be silent’: Boston Police Commissioner William Gross defends meeting with U.S. AG Barr

Gross's meeting with Barr on Thursday has since drawn public criticism.

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

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Days after a meeting with U.S. Attorney General William Barr drew criticism from area politicians and public officials, Boston Police Commissioner William Gross defended the decision to meet with Barr and pose for a photo.

In a discussion with a group of other Black men, hosted by Roxbury Community College and livestreamed online, Gross said he gave Barr “an earful” about his feelings as a Black man, as well as what the Boston Police Department is doing, during their meeting Thursday.

Barr met with both Boston and New York City law enforcement officials this past week, according to a Department of Justice news release. The Attorney General intends to meet with law enforcement officials throughout the country in the near future.

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“The purpose of the Attorney General’s visit was to show the Administration’s strong support for law enforcement and seek the input of police leadership on a range of issues, including President Trump’s recent Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities, as well as other issues involving community relations, use of force, officer training, and officer wellness,” the release said.

Gross referred to Barr as “Goliath,” the biblical character described as a “giant.”

“Goliath asked to meet with me to get my opinion on police reform and what’s going on in the country,” Gross said, adding that Barr mentioned that Gross is known for being able to “tell it like it is.”

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Gross said one of his heroes is Martin Luther King Jr., and that he had urged people to not be silent. He told Barr that he wanted to give his point of view as a Black man, as Boston’s first African American police commissioner, and as simply the police commissioner. He also said he didn’t approve any photos, noting that Barr asked for “a personal picture,” and he OK’d it, but said it couldn’t be shared on social media.

“That’s on me, and if it gave people the wrong image, that’s on me,” Gross said. “But that will also give me an opportunity to educate you about who I am and what I stand for, and I’m not a Black man that is going to be silent when overseers from the past said, ‘Shut up, you talk when I want you to talk, you talk to whoever I want you to talk to and stay in your corner.’ I’ll give up this job before any of that b––– happens in my life.”

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During the meeting, Barr sat across from him, Gross said, and they talked about police reform, the feelings of Black people across the country, and the death of George Floyd, the Black man killed while in Minneapolis police custody, the incident that has sparked weeks of protests nationwide calls for racial justice.

“I looked him in the face, I said, ‘There’s a lot of pain out there and here’s why,’” Gross said, then describing how Floyd was “murdered slowly for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.”

They also talked about the protests in Boston following Floyd’s death, according to Gross. He said it was “pretty much these white anarchists destroyed property trying to set fires yelling Black Lives Matter.”

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Following Gross’s meeting with Barr, Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu called it “a disgrace to our city and a breach of trust to our communities.”

Mayor Marty Walsh said that Barr and the Trump Administration “do not share Boston’s values.”

“His actions and general lack of respect for people and their rights are a danger to our city and the future of our country,” Walsh said.

Others, including City Councilor Andrea Campbell and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey also spoke out against the meeting.

“Just so you know, I’ll be goddamned if I didn’t give him an earful and tell how I felt as a Black man and what we’re doing in Boston,” Gross said. “Don’t let that picture define me.”

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Watch Gross’s full comments:

https://youtu.be/sZYvomU_pFg?t=5899

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