Baker sees big benefit from Guard presence
Not concerned about heavy weapons soldiers carry
MASSACHUSETTS NATIONAL GUARD soldiers, weapons strapped around their chests, have been a very visible presence in downtown Boston since they were called in by the governor after the violence that broke out Sunday night.
Vehicles with National Guard soldiers have been stationed every block or two in the Downtown Crossing area on most evenings, and Gov. Charlie Baker credits their presence there and elsewhere around the state for a marked downturn in violence.
“Since we brought the National Guard in to support local law enforcement, no one’s been arrested in Massachusetts and we take a tremendous amount of pride in that,” Baker said on Friday after touring LabCentral in Cambridge, a shared laboratory space for life sciences startups. Baker later amended his no-arrest statement to say there may have been a couple arrests outside Boston.
Baker said the goal of the law enforcement and military presence is to provide a safe environment for protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights, but he said police and the guardsmen are prepared to deal with people the governor described as “bad actors” who may have their own agenda.
Pressed on whether the heavy weaponry of the soldiers is needed and what their orders are, Baker didn’t go into detail.
“I think it’s pretty much their uniform. I don’t think it’s an issue one way or another with respect to them,” he said of the weapons. “But I do believe that the feedback we’ve gotten from our colleagues in local government about the support they’ve gotten from us and what that’s meant with respect to their ability to make sure their communities can have peaceful and safe demonstrations has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Here’s what else Baker had to say:
He said he will announce tomorrow whether the state will move forward with phase two of reopening, but all signs suggest that will happen. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard said one of the six key indicators — hospitalizations — moved from yellow for caution to green. That brings to three the number that are green and the other three are yellow. There were 494 new cases reported Friday and 35 deaths, 25 of them in long-term care facilities,He said he and members of the black and Latino legislative cause had very productive discussions on Thursday, before which they had a moment of silence to honor George Floyd that lasted 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Floyd was held down by the knee of the Minneapolis police officer facing murder charges in his death. Baker expressed amazement at how long 8 minutes and 46 seconds is.
LabCentral was established with significant funding from the state’s Life Sciences Center. Johannes Fruehauf, the co-founder and president, said the life sciences incubator has created 2,400 jobs and attracted $500 million in venture capital since March 10, the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Baker said many of the 65 startups have shifted the focus of their research during the pandemic to focus on COVID-19. “This is a science challenge that only science can solve,” Fruehauf said.