A large, 2-day party in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood drew several thousand people to Talbot Avenue last weekend. Many of the attendees reportedly weren't wearing masks or social distancing.
The event and the official response to it drew sharp criticism from Black community leaders given continued concerns about the coronavirus. Long time resident Louis Elisa called it "an absolute breakdown of law and order."
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
Here's everything we know about the event, which has some concerned it could be the state's next COVID-19 "super spreader":
Thousands of people gathered on Talbot Avenue on Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29 for a large street party. Revelers reportedly set up DJ tables and flatbed trucks and drank alcohol, danced and smoked marijuana in the streets, showing no concern about spreading the virus.
Organizers of the Carribean Carnival -- which was supposed to be held over the weekend but was canceled due to the pandemic -- reportedly reached out to police and the city to warn them that a party, not affiliated with the carnival, was being planned.
“I saw a gathering near Franklin Park Friday night of several hundred persons and was especially concerned that there seemed no concern by [Boston police] to break up the event,” long time resident Louis Elisa said. "I thought there was a 50 person limit that was supposed to be enforced."
"Nobody had their face covering, nothing," resident Karla Castro said. "It was just weird. Everyone was just close. We're trying to send people back to school and now people are partying. It's not right."
A call for action
The Boston Black COVID-19 Coalition held a press conference Thursday, criticizing Gov. Charlie Baker, Mayor Marty Walsh and other politicians for the lack of response to the event. They demanded action including testing and tracing of those who attended and steps to prevent a repeat over Labor Day weekend.
"By Saturday night, live videos on social media clearly showed thousands of people partying," said former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, a member of the group. "Though many had masks around their necks, shockingly few were wearing the masks. I waited all day Sunday for the news reports and then a press conference by Gov. Baker, Mayor Walsh, and other elected officials on Monday. It never happened! Now that we hear that there’s another party being planned for the weekend, we’re sounding the alarm.”
Walsh provided a written response Thursday calling the gathering, "completely unacceptable."
"To all those who are throwing parties in our city: stop putting residents' health and lives at risk," Walsh said in a written statement. "Gathering throughout the night and early morning hurts neighborhoods, and our most vulnerable communities do not deserve to have their health, safety and quality of life negatively impacted by these actions."
"Large parties jeopardize the progress we have made, and the sacrifices our residents and neighborhoods have endured in stopping the spread of COVID-19," said Walsh.
At-large City Councilor Julia Mejia said she was not aware of the size of the party and was "disheartened" by the lack of response from authorities. She added that social gatherings were taking place on Talbot Avenue and American Legion Parkway "every weekend."
Members of the Boston Black COVID-19 Coalition said the lack of response was in stark contrast to events held in communities like Chatham and Cohasset that drew sharp rebukes from Baker and they wondered aloud if that is because many of those attending the Dorchester party were Black or Latino.
Governor defends response
Baker defended the police response to the party on Thursday, saying the state troopers and Boston police officers handled it "exactly the way you would want them to" given the tension these days between law enforcement and the public.
“They did it by going to the event, engaging with the people who were there and basically working to come up with an answer that would translate into people leaving peacefully, and it took a while," the governor said. "Maybe it took too long and maybe people are unhappy about that.”