Hundreds peacefully assembled on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse Thursday to hold a national moment of silence for slain Missouri teen Michael Brown and other victims of police brutality. Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson killed Brown, 18, Sunday, August 10 while Brown was walking back from a neighborhood convenience store with a friend.
One of the protest’s organizers, Jay Dodd, said he was inspired to help put together an event in his own local community “to create a space for people to come and talk about the injustice that’s happening right now in the country.” While addressing the crowd, Dodd, a recent Tufts University graduate, remarked, “Nowhere is safe for certain bodies,” even in communities such as Somerville or Boston.
The racially diverse crowd brought various signs reading the names of those claimed by the unrestrained use of force by police officers and other authority figures across the country. Individuals shouted the names Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Emmett Till as those taken by police violence. Other signs read, “There can be no social order without social justice,” and “Do I fit the description?”
While the details surrounding the fatal shooting remain in dispute, Michael Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, who was with him when he was killed, claims Officer Wilson shot Brown several times when he tried to run before Brown put his hands in the air. After being struck at least once, Johnson says that Brown, arms held high, yelled, “I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting!” before Wilson shot Brown again.
Thursday’s gathering in Boston was a part of a national response to the killing of Brown and the rising racial tensions that accompanied the tragedy. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Ferguson, the small suburb northwest of St. Louis where Brown was killed, saw several clashes between protesters and the local police department.
Ferguson police first responded with heavy-handed military tactics, utilizing tear gas, rubber bullets and officers clad in riot gear. Thursday saw a shift in the police department’s policies, after criticism from local protesters, national media and state and federal officials reached a fever pitch. On Saturday night Missouri Governor Jay Nixon imposed a state of emergency.
Several of the vigil’s attendees drew parallels between what transpired in Ferguson and their own experiences in Boston and around the country. Carla Ramsey, a Boston resident, spoke of her son Burrell “Bo” Ramsey-White’s death at the hands of a yet-to-be identified Boston Police officer, almost two years ago.
Ramsey alleges that her son was shot and killed at a routine traffic stop, in another example of needless brutality. After attempting to file a victim’s claim with the Boston Police Department, Ramsey encountered difficulty and was unable to determine the exact details behind her son’s death and who ultimately killed him.
Addressing the handful of Boston police officers sent to watch the protest, Ramsey said, “You all are supposed to protect and serve. You’re not protecting me nor did you serve me. I want my taxes back.”
Bo Ramsey-White’s father addressed the crowd after his mother and was clear in his contempt, saying, “The police took him, no doubt. He was yelling please don’t kill me!” To cheers from the crowd, he continued, “We don’t got to go to Ferguson, we got a Ferguson right here!”
Those wishing to learn more about Burrell Ramsey-White or the organization that his mother and father founded in his memory may go to http://www.live4bo.com/.
While clashes between protesters and police halted in Missouri, gatherers in Boston joined thousands participating in similar vigils nationwide for the national moment of silence. From 7:20 to 7:21 p.m., the hundreds assembled in front of the Statehouse silently held their hands in the air, for Michael Brown and all others taken by police brutality.