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Emboldened by Chauvin verdict, protesters march against police brutality in Boston

Boston march
Bri Nichols (left) and Thatiana Desgraves marched with demonstrators through the rain from Nubian Square to Boston police headquarters calling for an end to police brutality and improved race relations. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

As thunderstorms rolled through Boston Wednesday evening, activists marched through the city, calling for an end to police brutality one day after Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted for the death of George Floyd.

Shouts of “all three counts,” a reference to Chauvin’s conviction on murder and manslaughter charges, and “No Justice, No Peace, you’ve got to prosecute the police,” echoed from the Massachusetts State House to Nubian Square, the heart of Boston’s Black community.

As rain fell, the families of several victims of police brutality gathered outside the State House to share their stories — and to call for the prosecution and conviction of the police officers responsible for their deaths.

Carla Sheffield, whose son Burrell Ramsey-White was killed by Boston police in 2012, said she was “angry” at the lack of a conviction for the officer responsible for her son’s death and the lack of transparency from city and state officials.

“Because they carry a badge, because they don’t feel like telling you their name, because they’re having a bad day, we have to fear for our black sons whether they’re going to see another day,” Sheffield said at the 5 p.m. press conference organized by Mass Action Against Police Brutality. “My son was 26 years old, no kids. He’s not going to be able to marry anybody. My whole life line is gone. My last name Ramsey, they put in the ground. The only story that’s out there is a story they created.”

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In Nubian Square, a demonstration organized by Violence in Boston Inc. and other groups lauded the guilty verdict, but said more must be done to improve policing and race relations.

“It’s an awesome verdict, but it’s just the bare minimum,” said Fenner Dreyfuss-Wells, a 19-year-old Northeastern University student. “We wanted to communicate that it can’t be the end.”

Dozens gathered across from a Roxbury police station before marching to Boston Police Headquarters on Tremont Street.

“As much as I would love to be in a celebratory mode in regards to what happened with George Floyd, the truth is not justice,” Monica Cannon-Grant, founder of Violence in Boston, told the gathering of about 80 people. “And that’s one case out of how many. So that’s why we’re here today.”

Protesters held signs reading “Justice for George Floyd is no more cop terror” and “Stop the war on Black Americans,” while a Black Lives Matter flag waved in front of the group; they repeated the names of Ramsey-White and Terrence Coleman, both killed by Boston police.

In 2016, Terrence Coleman, who was 31 years old at the time of his death, was shot by Boston police after an alleged altercation with paramedics, according to previous Globe reporting.

“Boston is one incident away from being Ferguson,” Cannon-Grant said, referring to the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Mo., that followed the fatal shooting of a Black man by a white police officer. “At this point, we cannot continue to allow them to cover up. They have a whole former president of their police union with so many sexual molestation charges; it’s disrespectful.”

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A member of Boston’s Local 26 union, Edward Childs, attended the protest to take a stand against the police’s long history of not protecting Black and working-class communities.

Although Childs, 70, of Somerville, does not think Tuesday’s verdict will change policing, he said it will affirm the impact of demonstrations and protests.

“It’ll have an impact on the people’s consciousness and that they can do something,” he said. “Because they know that the verdict was done because of the vastness of the protests in this country and around the world.”

Earlier Wednesday, community leaders, including Acting Mayor Kim Janey and Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston released statements saying the Chauvin verdict is an important step in addressing racism in America.

“In the days ahead, let us honor the legacy of George Floyd with the shared work of dismantling structural racism” Janey said in a statement. “Let us honor all those who have fought to build a stronger nation, a better city, a more beloved community.”

“The death of Mr. Floyd in a very public and raw manner catapulted this case into the conscience of the nation,” O’Malley said. “We have a moral responsibility to not let George Floyd’s death become a distant memory in the years ahead but a force for building communities of love, acceptance and fellowship.”

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