A Look at Boston’s Protests for Racial Justice: Winsor Students’ Reactions to and Support of the Movement

By Lillian G. ’21 and Caroline C. ’21

The horrifying sight of white police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed into unarmed Black man George Floyd’s neck, ultimately causing his death, has sparked outrage throughout America. Naomi Mekonnen ’21, a head of Sisters, Winsor’s black affinity group, remarked, “my heart broke on Tuesday as I watched the inhumanity of the officer who confidently kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for eight straight minutes as George begged for his life and spoke the words ‘I can’t breathe.” Similar to Naomi’s reaction, the disturbing video has left many in shock.  Emma Charity ’21, another head of Sisters, added “it is horrifying to see repeated offensives against my community.”

In cities across all 50 states, protests have taken place to condemn this act of brutality and many alike and demand an end to systemic racism. American citizens have flooded the streets, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, to demonstrate their right to protest. All of the protests were supposed to remain peaceful, but some have turned into riots due to police response, immeasurable anger from American citizens, and white supremacists and other radical groups taking advantage of the unrest. Emma noted, “this moment feels very different from what I’ve seen in the past because with the coronavirus, people have an angry and ‘screw the system’ mentality.”  

To counteract these riots, police departments have begun cracking down on peaceful protests by using tear gas and rubber bullets. State governments have also initiated curfews to force peaceful protesters to go home but have shut down train lines at the same time, leaving protesters across the country stranded. President Trump made a statement yesterday, commenting that he is the “president of law and order,” and he “will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them” if individual states “refuse to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents.”  This statement was made on national television with the sounds of tear gas explosions breaking up a peaceful protest in the background. Some feel as though the president is threatening martial law, which would impose a military government with a suspension of normal laws. Following this announcement, President Trump walked to St. John’s Church for a photo op of the President holding a bible, requiring police and national guard troops to throw tear gas at peaceful protesters and thus violate protesters’ First Amendment rights.

The issue of police brutality presented in the George Floyd case does not exclude Massachusetts. The initial Boston Protest took place on Friday, May 29, and since Sunday, May 31, protests have happened consistently. On May 29, thousands of Bostonians, MA residents, and residents of nearby states such as New York took to the streets to show solidarity and protest for change. This Boston protest is met with demonstrations across all 50 states and 18 countries. For hours, Bostonians marched peacefully; however, the night ended with MBTA service suspension and people stuck between the Back Bay and Downtown. The cornering of protesters and the MBTA shutdown resulted in looting and violent confrontations between police and protesters ensued, with many protesters noting that the protest was peaceful before the crowd was tear-gassed. Naomi, who was able to attend the protest, expressed her sadness that “when I got home, the media coverage of that night was centered around the looting and violence that took place instead of the thousands that were peacefully marching for over four hours as they openly expressed their pain and grievances.” Emma added, “there are complex feelings about looting and rioting, but the passion [of the protests] is undeniable.” 

Agreeing with Naomi, protestors across the country have said that the media has not emphasized that the people who made these violent actions were a minuscule part of an overwhelmingly peaceful and powerful protest. Organizers and members of the movement feel that it is crucial  to prohibit these instances of looting and violence from overshadowing the greater issue: ingrained systemic racism in our societies and criminal justice system. 

Despite the media’s emphasis on the violence of the Boston protest and others throughout the country, many organizers inist prohibiting violence will spark inspiration in many Americans, seeing citizens of all backgrounds working towards a common goal.  People of all ages, races, genders, and other identities have joined together to demand a change.  Emma expressed, “It is insane because I feel like we’ve been here a million times before from what my grandparents experienced to what my father experienced to what is happening now and truly, enough is enough…The current passion is extraordinarily powerful.”

Although attending protests is not an option for many people because of the ongoing pandemic, there are many other options for members of the Winsor community to support the movement and educate ourselves on what is happening in our country.  Obtaining a holistic view of the information that is being shared at this moment is very pertinent since media outlets have been emphasizing the violence occurring. Naomi asks “that the Winsor community challenges themselves with the media and information they are consuming. Switch between different news channels, talk to people who were [at protests], and continuously make a real effort to understand the truth and what these issues are about.”

Below, please find some resources from the Action Guide for Racial and Social Injustice, courtesy of Sisters and Amnesty. 

Here is a quick overview of current events

What I MUST do…

  1. Know your history 
    1. Here are some explanations of police brutality, systematic inequality, our broken justice system, and how to deconstruct racism
  2. Acknowledge your white privilege (if applicable)
    1. Get an overview 
    2. Learn from Amy Cooper
  3. Stay Informed 
    1. Google is free.
  4. Stop Appropriation
    1. Do not pick apart pieces of Black culture for your convenience or social currency 
  5. Read, Watch, Listen 
    1. Books
    2. Documentaries
    3. Listen to the voices of Black people 

What I CAN do… 

  1. Sign Petitions 
    1. Remove Bail for Derek Chauvin
    2. Justice for George Floyd
    3.  Justice for Breonna Taylor
    4. Defund the Minneapolis Police
    5. Hands Up Act
  2. Text 
    1. “JUSTICE” to 668366
    2. “FLOYD” to 55156
    3. “ENOUGH” to 55156
  3. Donate 
    1. Black Lives Matter
    2. George Floyd Memorial Fund
    3. Campaign Zero
    4. Black Visions Collective 
    5. Unicorn Riot
    6. Bail Funds
    7. National Police Accountability Project 

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