This editorial was originally published in Boston Compass #59 (December 14′).
Maybe you were shocked by a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson. After all, the circumstances of the police officer’s killing of Michael Brown at least warranted a trial. Brown was an unarmed, Black teenager. His killing sparked protests that took the national spotlight this summer and since–especially after the police responded to the protests with brute force. But then again, maybe you were not surprised at all. Racist discrimination happens in the US every day, especially in the criminal justice system. When the grand jury’s decision came down though, we saw something that we don’t see every day: nation-wide protest. When the verdict came, we were ready. Not only in Ferguson, but here in Boston too. Thousands of people converged in Dudley Square the night after the grand jury’s decision was released. After a few minutes of silence and righteously angry speeches, we decided to march. We took Melnea Cass Boulevard, chanting “no justice, no peace!” through Roxbury. We marched to the Suffolk County House of Corrections in Dorchester (known as the South Bay Jail) to show solidarity with the inmates there. The crowd chanted “we see you!” and “Black lives matter” outside of the jail. The inmates responded, flocking to their cell windows, flickering their lights, and dancing to the rhythms of the chants. In rallying at South Bay, we shut down the on-ramp to I-93, which is adjacent to the building.
We weren’t the only ones. There were protests in over 160 cities across the US in response to the verdict. And amazingly, spontaneously, protesters shut down highways in their cities too. I-95 in Providence. Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Multiple highways, bridges and tunnels in NYC. Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland, and on and on.
Hopefully this is the beginning of something. It’s long overdue. A movement of people united and organized nationwide for equality can win a society where people of color don’t have to fear the police. In the meantime, if we rise up in 160 cities every time police kill unarmed Black people, maybe they will think twice about doing it.