Letters to the Editor

Statement from United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling

Dear Editor,

Loud, even disruptive, protests honor the memory of George Floyd and increase the pressure for swift, transparent accountability for those who killed him. I commend those who protested loudly, yet peacefully. But stealing suits, robbing a jewelry store, and rounding out the night by vandalizing businesses in Back Bay, attacking police and torching cruisers? That’s crime, and nothing more.

Let me be clear: the violence and destruction last night in Boston was an embarrassment to the movement for police reform and accountability. The Boston Police, supported by State Police, Transit Police, federal law enforcement and the National Guard, was doing its job – the dangerous, necessary job of protecting the public safety. I support them completely and, if needed, I will use federal charges to make that point.

I commend the Boston Police and the hundreds of other local, state and federal officers on the streets last night, for their bravery, professionalism and restraint. You reminded us that 99% of law enforcement officers are true public servants, putting themselves in harm’s way for the rest of us.

U.S. Attorneu Andrew Lelling

Statement on the May 31st Protests in the City of Boston

Dear Editor,

This morning Bostonians woke up to a City destroyed by the actions of those who took over and desecrated an otherwise peaceful and meaningful protest with acts of violence and destruction. Their actions are unacceptable, disgraceful, and served as a disservice to those who showed up to protest peacefully. I want to thank the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department, Boston Emergency Medical Services, and other first responders who worked hard all night to protect our City and its residents. I pray for anyone injured last night protecting our City.

To the thousands who participated in the initial peaceful march honoring the legacy of Mr. George Floyd and calling for change that returned home after its completion, I thank you. I am sorry that those with ill-intentions usurped the narrative of your event and put your lives and cause in danger.

As a City, as a community and as neighbors, we must choose how we move forward. The path forward may not be clear yet, but I do know that we need to walk it together. As an elected official, I am committed to bringing government, community, law enforcement, and activists together to sit at the table and ensure these protests result in deeper understanding and positive, measurable results. I want to both ensure the thousands who participated in this event have their voices heard and their goals achieved, while also ensuring that those who perpetuated violence and destruction are held fully accountable and that their actions are not repeated, glorified, or seen as acceptable in the City of Boston.

Councilor Flaherty

Official Statement of Boston City Council President Kim Janey

Dear Editor,

This is a critical time in our nation’s history, and just like Black lives, how we respond in Boston, matters. As President of the Boston City Council and as the District 7 Councilor, I am extremely proud of the peaceful protest that took place in Roxbury’s Nubian Square yesterday.

Breonna Taylor was struck by 8 bullets, killed in her own home in Louisville after police used a battering ram to enter. George Floyd’s haunting, and all too familiar, cries for breath, as a police officer in Minneapolis held his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes. These are not isolated incidents, but rather reincarnations of the violence wrought by centuries of chattel slavery and later Jim Crow Laws. What generations of Black people have witnessed and experienced is a system that finds new ways to devalue Black lives. And it has to end.    

Roxbury has a deep history of community organizers and activists who have worked for many years to build up our community, and we are not about to let anyone come and tear it down. Deep gratitude goes out to the local organizers involved and to the Black men from our community who were there to support the efforts and ensure safety. I also want to thank the local police, who showed up very differently than they did at Friday’s protest at the B2 station, after I and others raised concerns. Instead of coming with helmets and sticks, they were in regular uniform, and they were instrumental in redirecting car traffic away from the growing crowd of protestors. 

Even downtown the protest remained peaceful. Afterwards, there were a few who used this as an opportunity to wreak havoc in our city. Let’s be clear, we cannot allow interlopers to co-opt our movement for their own agenda. I condemn violence in all its forms, and that means violence against protestors and violence against police officers.

As a community organizer for the last 30 years, I know how important protest is to our struggle. This is about Black Lives. How the police treat us is a big part of that, but it’s not about them, it’s about US!  Even in a world without police brutality and state sanctioned killings of unarmed Black people, our communities still face a myriad of inequities. We are still living in substandard housing, with low-paying jobs, and sending our children to under-resourced schools. It is because of these massive inequities that we are still being impacted by COVID disproportionately.

Boston’s recent and upcoming protests call for real change, that for too long has fallen upon deaf ears — change that closes Boston’s enormous wealth gap and addresses our housing crisis. Our agenda must be one that promotes and protects the true liberation of Black people in our country, after 400 years of oppression.

It is so exhausting to have to fight for your very existence, in your own country, every single day. Now is not the time to stand on the sidelines. We need everyone, including those who benefit from the system of white supremacy, to do what they can to dismantle it. We need true justice. We cannot have healing without it. Take care of yourselves and each other.

As always, in solidarity.

Kim Janey, Boston City Council President

Boston Teachers Union issues Statement of Solidarity with our Black Families and Community; Denounces Anti-Black Racism and Police Brutality

Dear Editor,

It is with a very heavy heart that we find ourselves in a position, once again, of having to make a statement in solidarity with our Black community members and to denounce police brutality, while reaffirming our commitment to fighting anti-black racism and fighting racism of all forms.  

The recent national media attention on the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and on the racially motivated assault on Christian Cooper, have painfully continued to expose what we know for too long has always been there — the reality that our society is built on systems and institutions that continue to oppress and harm black people and perpetuate racism and white supremacy.

We, as educators serving predominantly Black, Latinx, APIA, and indigenous students, have a duty to confront and undo our own internalized prejudices and bias, and to fight to transform the systems that perpetuate and enforce them. In our quest to create the truly equitable schools that our students and educators deserve, we cannot ignore how social, racial and economic disparities impact both our communities and our classrooms.  

Words, however, are not enough. While we will continue to plan and support our Black Lives Matter Week of Action, as well as our Black Caucus, Haitian Educators Committee, Immigrant Rights/Unafraid Educators, Ethnic Studies Now! and other BTU committees that specifically advance racial justice, we must also create more ways through which our union can continue to address racial bias, and, specifically, anti-black racism.  

At all of our conferences, we will have racial equity workshops. This includes our Summer Organizing Institute, Fall Leadership Conference, Winter Conference, and Parent 2 Parent Conference. For the next year and beyond, I am asking that racial equity training be a requirement for all of our elected Building Reps, staff, and for our Executive Board. I am urging all of our members to take time to participate in these opportunities to further our own learning and understanding of racial equity because that understanding is fundamental to the work we do and to what we stand for.

The work to dismantle racism and the systems that perpetuate them must begin with us — with each individual being willing to listen, learn, self reflect and lower our defensive reactions. All of us have both ideas to unlearn and new perspectives to gain, as we all strive to better understand our individual and collective roles in both fighting white supremacy and supporting our Black, Latinx, APIA, and indigenous students, union members, and communities. This includes examining and understanding the historic and current roles of policing both in schools and in our communities of color.  

Our advocacy — over the summer, and as we plan for potential fall reopening and beyond, must continue to be centered in racial, social and economic justice. It is not only when brutal violence claims national media headlines that we must do this work, but it is work that must be done everyday, in our small interactions, in our daily conversations, and in the actions we take to be an ally — not a bystander or a perpetrator. Our goal as a union is to develop a shared, deeper racial analysis that will empower each of us to take action, do our part, and lead in the fight against all forms of injustice.  

Over the next week, we will also be working with Superintendent Cassellius and BPS offices of Equity and Opportunity Gaps to bring together educators throughout the district to listen and to share ways that we can continue to support our Black students, educators and community. We will continue to work with the Superintendent and with the City to create a more equitable school system that truly reflects and celebrates the diversity that makes us strong and schools that we can all be proud of.  

Lastly, during this time, while we are also healing from pandemic induced trauma, we remind everyone to seek mental and emotional health support and self-care, both through medical providers and/or through our networks and community. We will continue to share resources and support opportunities on our website: http://www.btu.org. The COVID-19 crisis has already exacerbated and exposed racial inequities, adding another layer of trauma that too many in our community have already long been experiencing. Now more than ever, we need to continue to practice radical self-care and look out for one another. And to truly look out for one another, we must be brave enough to look inward, first.

Jessica Tang

Boston Teachers’ Union, president

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