Clergy members protest name of Faneuil Hall by chaining themselves to it

“We believe this is an insult to the values that we represent, values of inclusion and respect, and being one beloved community together.”

Three ministers John Gibbons (left), Valerie Copeland (center), and Kevin Peterson (right) chained themselves to Faneuil Hall Wednesday afternoon to urge city leaders to rename the building. Katie Mogg/Globe Staff

In a push to get city officials to rename Faneuil Hall, three clergy members chained themselves to the historic town meeting hall and marketplace Wednesday. 

The landmark is named for Peter Faneuil, a colonial merchant who made his fortune through business practices complicit with the slave trade, and who built the hall as a gift to the city.  

“We believe this is an insult to the values that we represent, values of inclusion and respect, and being one beloved community together,” Rev. John Gibbons told the Boston Globe. “We think the name of Peter Faneuil … chains us to the worst of our racist history.”

Faneuil Hall:

Gibbons was joined by Rev. Kevin Peterson and pastor Valerie Copeland on the front steps of the hall, and told the Globe Wednesday they planned to stay chained for as long as possible. The group dispersed around 6 p.m. Wednesday.


“Having Faneuil’s name on this hall that represents freedom is the greatest hypocrisy,” Copeland told the Globe.

City officials have heard from the ministers in the past — Peterson told the Globe they had pressed City Council in the past and that former Mayor Marty Walsh didn’t budge. In response to a query from the Globe, Mayor Michelle Wu’s press office said in an email statement that “it is critical to acknowledge and address the role of slavery in our nation’s founding and the deep inequities that remain today.”

“As we work to build an equitable Boston for everyone, the city is committed to advancing racial justice and learning from our past and right wrongs,” the statement said.

Faneuil left behind a complicated legacy — though according to the National Parks Service he can’t be characterized as a major slave trader, he made his fortune in Transantlantic trade, an industry supported by the slave trade.

“We see this process of changing the name, a public process that could go through the city council or the mayor’s office,” Peterson told WHDH. “As a way for us to deepen conversations of how we must develop strategies around addressing the issues of anti-Black racism.”


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com