#BlackLivesMatter Campaign Moving Forward: Organizers Plan MLK Day March; Solidarity Activists Shut Down Highway
BOSTON - Thursday, January 15th – the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s actual birthday - certainly was a day of contrasting styles and strategies around civil disobedience. Early in the morning, scores of activists essentially risked their lives to block rush hour traffic on Route 93 in order to protest brutality by police against people of color. In the afternoon, organizers announced plans for a march through the streets of downtown Boston during the Martin Luther King Day holiday.
In a statement released to the press by activists who blockaded the Southwest Expressway, they wrote “we are a diverse group of LGBTQA, white, pan-Asian and Latin people acting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, both locally and nationally… As non-Black people acting in solidarity, it is necessary to disrupt a capitalist structure that has been built on the physical and economic exploitation of Black bodies since our country’s inception.”
Organizers of recent civil rights demonstrations and marches gave no indication they were aware of what was going to happen on the Southwest Expressway Thursday morning. In a phone interview the following day, Brandi Artez, who has led several marches and sit-down protests on Tremont and Newbury Streets in Boston, said “she was as surprised [about the Thursday action] as anyone else.
“But yes, I also support it. Sometimes disruption is necessary.” She said she understands the concerns of those who think the demonstration was extreme but added, “this can be easily fixed if changes are made. Changes to the way people in the city are treated by the police.”
The MA State Police said they arrested 29 demonstrators who chained their arms together using PVC pipe and concrete-filled barrels placed on the highway in Milton and Medford. Charges included trespassing, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The Boston Globe reported that an ambulance carrying an 82 year old crash victim on its way to Mass General had to be diverted to a hospital without a trauma center due to the protest.
Thursday afternoon, organizers affiliated with the coalition of activists and concerned citizens seeking an end to “police brutality” and alternatives to “mass incarceration and economic insecurity,” according to their press release, announced they would hold a "4 Mile March" through Boston on Monday, the day Reverend King’s birthday is celebrated officially.
The length of the march, one of an estimated 25 demonstrations to be held around the nation, is meant to symbolize the four and half hours Michael Brown was “left on the ground after being shot to death by Officer Darren Wilson,” according to organizers .
The march will start at 1 p.m. on Monday, Martin Luther King Day, and begin at the Old State House on the corners of Congress, State, and Devonshire Streets in Boston. The route ends at the African Meeting House on Joy Street in Beacon Hill.
Protest organizers also released a list of seven demands, including calls for the imprisonment of killer cops. "When police officers break the law and take life, they must be subject to punishment," read the statement.
Their demands include a living wage in all communities, “beginning with the enactment of a $15 per hour minimum wage,” a halt to prison expansion and mass incarceration, opposition to bringing the Olympics to Boston, and justice for families in Massachusetts “who have lost loved ones to police brutality…from real and thorough investigation of the crimes committed against them to…payment of funeral expenses for victims.”
Thursday afternoon, standing in front of the Old State House, near the marker for the site of the Boston Massacre in 1770, organizers Ashley Clerge and Brock Satter talked with a reporter about Monday’s “4 Mile March” and sustaining momentum for change.
“I think a lot of people are realizing how we’re not letting this die,” said Clerge. In her opinion, “it’s been a black awakening that we haven’t seen in a very long time.”
Asked what role white people should play, Satter responded that “…any person who cares about democratic rights and equality, regardless of their race should join this fight, support this fight.
“The movement that started in the wake of the killing of Mike Brown…is not going away.” It continues, he added, “…to honor the historic struggle, primarily for black people in this country, for equal rights and for justice.
“We’re part of that continuity. And this whole fight around police brutality and against the de-valuing of black lives…it’s part of the soul of American history.”
OMB Audio: Conversation with #BlackLivesMatter affiliated organizers Ashley Clerge and Brock Satter, Jan. 15, 2015 (11:34)