Hundreds of protesters calling for justice following the death of George Floyd circled Boston Common and parts of downtown Wednesday in the city's latest event to denounce police brutality and call for the end of structural racism.
The "Justice for George" event aimed to honor the life of Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. That's how long some participants lay down on the grass of the Common in a "die-in" held in solidarity with Floyd.
The event was peaceful, though it brought a surprise -- just before it began, the murder charge brought against the ex-police officer in Floyd's death was upgraded while three other officers in the case were charged. Many of the participants at Boston's rally learned of the new charges while they were there.
"As a mother, it hurts like hell. As a woman, it hurts. As a lover, it hurts. As a person, it hurts. Who's got the right to take someone's life?" protester Olivia Martin said at the rally.
Organizers had called for the event to remain peaceful, and it circled the Common for about an hour before moving onto the streets.
Demonstrators split into different groups, with some heading toward Government Center, others peacefully confronting National Guard officers and Boston police at a closed entrance to Downtown Crossing, still others participating in a massive "die-in" on the Common, where the crowd returned.
"We came out here because we thought it would be the right thing to do -- stand up for what we believe in," one young participant in the rally said.
There were no clashes between demonstrators and police like those seen late Sunday, when dozens were arrested, store windows were shattered and a police cruiser set ablaze. On Thursday, at least one National Guardsman was seen handing out bottles of water to protesters.
The organizers said the event would end at 5:30 p.m., noting the city has a recommended curfew of 9 p.m. due to the coronavirus pandemic, though hundreds were still gathered on the Common for another hour after the scheduled end time.
"Massachusetts needs to let America know we do not stand for racism!" organizers said in a Facebook post. "We need to show support for our fellow Americans and honor human life."
The rally came a day after protests in Boston remained peaceful, a stark contrast to the events of Sunday night, when protesters and police clashed late into the night and stores were looted.
In a series of tweets, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Wednesday praised protesters and police after a rally at Franklin Park remained peaceful
After the Franklin Park event, some protesters headed downtown.
A car weaved through a group walking outside police headquarters on Tremont Street, causing a tense situation. As people gathered around the vehicle, officers escorted the driver into the building, and some in the crowd eventually moved on.
Later, a large group gathered at Boston police headquarters. At one point, former City Councilor Tito Jackson addressed the crowd, telling them not to take their anger out on police: "I need y'all to vote in every single election … the people who are at City Hall determine what happens with the Boston Police Department."
More people moved downtown, arriving outside the State House about 9:20 p.m. There, a few hundred people gathered, at one point taking a knee in silence for about 30 seconds.
Protests in Massachusetts
Tensions grew between the crowd and police, though no serious violence broke out -- protesters urged others not to throw anything. At one point an armored police vehicle drove up to the crowd, where it was stopped by a wall of people and withdrew without incident.