Walsh, Boston leaders praise protesters, condemn agitators
Mayor calls looting attack on the city and its people
MAYOR MARTY WALSH and fellow Boston leaders voiced support for the thousands of protesters who took to the streets to demonstrate against the police killing of George Floyd, while condemning the small minority they said turned to violence and looting late last night.
A day of peaceful protest over the death of Floyd, a black Minneapolis resident killed May 25 while in police custody, was badly marred by a group of rogue protesters who turned violent late Sunday. They began to pelt police with water bottles, torched a police cruiser, and looted stores in downtown Boston and on Newbury Street in the Back Bay.
The demonstrations sent 18 civilians and nine police officers to the hospital, according to Walsh.
Walsh said Monday that the looting was “an attack on our city and its people,” after a day that was “overwhelmingly positive.” He spoke at an afternoon press conference outside City Hall, flanked by Police Commissioner William Gross, Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, city councilors, and city cabinet members.
Gross said 53 people were arrested — 27 Boston residents and 24 people with out-of-town addresses.
“It was rough for a while out there last night as officers were attacked, and actually tear gas was thrown at us,” Gross said.
According to a list on the police department’s website, the 53 suspects ranged from 17 to 45 in age. No racial demographics were listed. They were charged with multiple infractions, including assault and battery on a police officer and by means of a dangerous weapon, inciting a riot, willful and malicious destruction of property, larceny over $1,200, and breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony.
One suspect, John Boampong, 37, of Dorchester, allegedly fired a gun at officers and was arraigned Monday in Boston Municipal Court on six counts of armed assault with intention to murder, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, and other charges.
Walsh lamented the damage to property of business owners already hard hit by the economic impacts of closure during COVID-19. “This was the very last thing that our city, quite honestly, needed,” he said. “Some of those stores have been badly hurt by the pandemic, and are just on the verge of coming back. They’re fighting to survive.”
Rollins had sharp words for the string of police shootings of unarmed blacks in recent years that fed into the anger over Floyd’s death. The protests came after “seeing police officers, that black lives pay taxes to fund these positions, shoot us in the streets as if we are animals,” she said. She recounted the country’s long history of violence against blacks. “There were lives that were stolen, people that were lynched and murdered, and they’re never coming back,” Rollins said.
She deplored the violence that took place and offered a message to those responsible for it. “That is unacceptable,” Rollins said. “You will be prosecuted and held accountable.”Massachusetts’s top federal prosecutor, US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling, also weighed in, commending the peaceful protesters, while slamming those who were “stealing suits and robbing a jewelry store.” During the violence, videos surfaced on social media of men looting a Men’s Wearhouse in Downtown Crossing and putting on new suits across the street.
“That’s crime and nothing more,” Lelling said in a statement.