Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the South End on Monday – heading up Tremont Street to the State House – to protest a controversial portion of Gov. Charlie Baker’s police accountability bill, a portion of the bill that would pay officers a $5,000 bonus for going beyond the standards training procedures.
Monday’s protest was in part to memorialize Rayshard Brooks, who was shot in the back and killed by police in Atlanta on June 12 while running away from them. His funeral was Tuesday in Atlanta.
However, the moment at hand, according to protest organizer Monica Cannon-Grant of Violence in Boston Inc., was to draw attention to portions of Gov. Charlie Baker’s police accountability bill now being debated on Beacon Hill. That bill contains many new initiatives for policing, including a new police training certification system. Within that system, municipalities would be authorized to pay officers $5,000 bonuses for going above and beyond the new training mandates – an incentive to take further coursework.
“We don’t need to pay you not to be racists,” said Cannon-Grant later at the State House. It was also a theme of the marchers as they proceeded through the South End on Monday as well, having started the journey from the Reggie Lewis Center.
Many chanted anti-police messages, called for defunding the police, but far more carried the names and photographs of black men who have been killed in recent years by police, including Eric Garner in New York City several years ago.
His son, Eric Garner Jr., was in attendance on Monday at the procession.
The protest was also in great anticipation of the City’s Budgeting Debate and vote that took place on Wednesday afternoon – a debate that has been completely framed around policing and police budgets.
Many, including Councilor Michelle Wu, are calling for a melding of the Boston Police and the Boston Public Health Commission.
Appearing at the online Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) on Tuesday, Wu said she would be voting against the City Budget Wednesday so that the Council could take a few breaths and focus on what residents and protestors want to see in what will arguably be the most important budget document in decades.
“I don’t believe this budget reflects transformation in the sense that it would bring about changes in Public Safety and Public Health infrastructure that we want to see in the city,” she said. “I say Public Health and Public Safety in the same sentence because we need to see it that way.”