Tensions Flare But Don't Boil at Peaceful Boston George Floyd Protest, March to State House

Tuesday's demonstrations were being held in honor of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis, and to call for racial equity

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What to Know

  • Demonstrations drew thousands in Boston and elsewhere in Massachusetts. They were mostly peaceful, though it was tense in Brockton, with fireworks and tear gas occasionally being fired.
  • A massive crowd gathered peacefully in Boston's Franklin Park Tuesday afternoon. Demonstrators and police calmly defused a standoff in which officers were surrounded by a crowd.
  • Throughout, demonstrators have called for justice in the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for an extended period of time.

Thousands of protesters filled a park in Boston Tuesday night to denounce police brutality against black people as anger over the death of George Floyd continues to roil the city and the nation.

The gathering was overwhelmingly peaceful, but it stretched on for hours as hundreds of participants who marched from Franklin Park headed downtown, massing at one point outside a police station in Grove Hall, then gathering again at Boston police headquarters.

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 anew. 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."

Outside Boston police headquarters Tuesday, former City Councilman Tito Jackson urged a crowd seeking justice for the death of George Floyd not to take their anger out on police officers.

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.

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.

Some highway ramps were shut down in the downtown area during the gathering, a Massachusetts Department of Transportation spokeswoman said, while T trains skipped several stations in the area for about an hour.

Meanwhile, in Brockton, a large crowd gathered outside police headquarters, occasionally scattering amid some unease. Fireworks were thrown at police and national guardsmen, who deployed tear gas and pepper spray.
It was one of several other protests being held in the area Tuesday night, as tensions simmered but didn't completely boil over into the kind of disarray Boston saw Sunday night.

Peaceful 'Die-in,' March and Rally in Boston

Chanting "Black Lives Matter," "no justice, no peace" and more, the demonstrators gathered for the start of the Boston "Not One More" rally on Blue Hill Ave about 5 p.m. They held a "die-in" before a march toward Lemuel Shattuck Hospital, on the other side of the park, and gathered for a massive rally.

About 7 p.m., a police convoy of motorcycles and other vehicles was hemmed in for several minutes by chanting, though peaceful, protesters. A line of bicycle police stood shoulder-to-shoulder, back-to-back, on Jewish War Vets Drive in the park, with protesters on either side.

There was tension at a rally against police brutality in Boston Tuesday as a police vehicle became surrounded by a crowd, but demonstrators and officers ended the situation peacefully.

But protesters appeared to defuse the situation, with waves of them taking a knee as police vehicles reversed their way out. Some formed a human chain along with some officers to create space for police.

Boston police on Twitter asked protesters to refrain from surrounding the vehicles: "Our officers are there to protect and serve. The intention is not to invite, incite or provoke violence."

Photos: Thousands Turn Out for Protest in Boston

The event was held in memory of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Floyd, a black man, died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, was killed by police during a warrant search in Kentucky. Arbery, 25, was killed while running on a residential street in Georgia.

Masks and hand sanitizer were handed out at ahead of the rally's start Tuesday -- it comes in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Calls for change are intensifying in Boston after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

Then participants held a “die-in” for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that Floyd laid on the ground before he died.

The March wound through Franklin Park, chosen as the venue to prevent the kind of chaos and violence that erupted in Boston Sunday night after thousands of peaceful protesters gathered to denounce police brutality, scenes similar to ones that played out across the United States.

More Coverage: Boston Protests Turned Violent Sunday

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Organizers said they hired their own security to stop any violence Tuesday. The goal is to create a healing space to show that black people will not be broken by police violence.

"Today is about us coming together, a space for us, by us -- created by us -- to be able to yell, scream, hold people accountable, come together, mourn and just turn up," said Monica Cannon Grant, CEO of Violence in Boston. "I think the city of Boston has been just too comfortable in regard to racism."

A Harvard Medical School professor helps explain the peaceful protesters and those doing looting at George Floyd protests nationwide, and the deep-seeded trauma at the heart of the issue.

The event was bumped up from 6 p.m. to 5 p.m. so more of it would take place amid daylight. A candlelight vigil was planned as well.

Boston police, seen around the edges of the event, urged protesters to remain "safe, peaceful and respectful."

One protest participant who said she'd been at Sunday's rally as well said Tuesday's felt more placid.

"People wanted to retaliate that evening but here it's very peaceful, we just want to send a message today," she said.

Other George Floyd Events in Mass.

There were similar events taking place around the Greater Boston Area Tuesday.

In Brockton, a large crowd was milling around in front of Brockton police headquarters, where the Massachusetts National Guard could be seen.

The crowd occasionally ran in several directions, though it wasn't clear what caused it, and some bottles were being thrown. Later, fireworks were shot at police across a line in an extended standoff that also saw tear gas and pepper spray deployed.

The protests there were causing commuter rail trains to bypass Brockton Station, the MBTA said.

In Watertown, a peace rally brought out hundreds of people.

A protest at Quincy City Hall Tuesday was peaceful, with hundreds gathered to show solidarity in the wake of Floyd’s killing with a candlelight vigil, participants taking a knee and a march down Hancock Street.

The Hingham Black Lives Matter candlelight vigil drew hundreds to the lawn of St. John's Church.

Elected officials in Massachusetts are saying it is time for people to listen to the ideas of the people being impacted by police violance; not about thoughts and prayers, but about concrete ideas.

Protests had been planned at the Boston and Somerville police department headquarters for noon Tuesday, though they seemed not to have happened. Also Tuesday, officials of color from Massachusetts called for police accountability during their own rally at the State House.

Sunday's protests began in the afternoon, drawing throngs of demonstrators outraged by the death of Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck until he stopped breathing. Similar demonstrations have erupted across the nation since.

Dozens of people were arrested, several police officers have been injured and storefronts are destroyed after protesters took to the streets of Boston Sunday night.

Breonna Taylor, an EMT worker and a black woman, was asleep in her Louisville, Kentucky, home when three police officers forced their way inside, "blindly fired" and killed her on March 13, according to a lawsuit filed by her family.

Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed on Feb. 23 by a white father and son who armed themselves after the 25-year-old black man ran past their yard just outside the port city of Brunswick. 

Hundreds gathered at two different peaceful vigils in West Roxbury Monday evening. Some demonstrators knelt for nine minutes in memory of Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis just over a week ago.

Though signs of Sunday night's destruction lingered in the background, participants said they were undeterred.

Protesters marched through the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia Tuesday, demanding justice for an unarmed black man shot to death while jogging. Demonstrators carried signs chanting "I run with Maud" as they demanded justice for 25-year old Ahmaud Arbery.

"We think that the cause is really important, it is something we stand for," one protester said. "This is not the way I think everyone wanted to social distancing, but distancing together, in this time when we need it more than ever."

Organizers are encouraging people to maintain social distance and bring hand sanitizer, wear masks and gloves.

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