Boston residents, activists rally against stop-and-frisk

Luis Navarro, a 16-year-old Worchester resident, protested outside the Boston Police Department Thursday with other supporters of the Boston Coalition for Police Accountability to highlight the injustices of racial profiling. PHOTO BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Luis Navarro, a 16-year-old Worchester resident, protested outside the Boston Police Department Thursday with other supporters of the Boston Coalition for Police Accountability to highlight the injustices of racial profiling. PHOTO BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Residents, activists and students gathered outside the Boston Police Headquarters Thursday night to rally against police brutality in response to a Wednesday American Civil Liberties Union study that found more than half of Boston’s “police-civilian encounters” from 2007 to 2012 targeted blacks.

About 75 people, including members from over 40 organizations, attended the rally, with a wide range of speakers from the ACLU and residents of the Greater Boston area who had experienced police brutality first-hand.

Carl Williams, an ACLU attorney, announced at the rally the official establishment of the Boston Coalition for Police Accountability, a group focused on reducing police brutality and racial disparity in the city of Boston.

“Because of what’s happened in the last few weeks across the country, there are voices listening right now,” he said. “I believe that constitutional rights, the rights of human beings, should be respected. I know that all the people here are going to work to make sure that becomes a reality. Here in Boston, we are starting to win. And the more we win, the more reforms that we can get.”

ACLU Attorney King Downing introduced the coalition and spoke about the issues surrounding racial profiling.

“I’m here to support the newly formed Boston Coalition for Police Accountability,” he said. “They demand for justice all around the country, as well as putting an end to stop-and-frisks here in Boston. This is the second time that we’ve had data that showed this problem. I’m here to support the coalition in calling people to take action.”

Among some of the speakers was Carla Sheffield, a Boston resident and mother of Burrell Anthony Ramsey, who was fatally shot by a Boston Police Department officer during a routine traffic stop in 2012. Sheffield spoke of the death of her son and demanded the police make changes in their accountability.

“How many times does a black person have to throw their hands up and say, ‘I matter! Don’t shoot me!’” she said. “I am financially broken. I can’t put a headstone on my son’s grave. My son is not here, you can’t bring him back, and I want justice. I deserve it, and I want it today. There needs to be accountability and transparency in the police force.”

Several BPD officers in attendance spoke with protesters about the issues presented and showed their support outside the headquarters.

“This event itself is important,” said Sgt. Michael McCarthy. “We certainly encourage people to come out and express themselves, and we want to be proud of that as well. We support their right to come out here and say what they want to say. We’re just as concerned for them as we are for anyone in this city.”

Among the crowd were both local attendees and protesters, including some who had traveled long distances to the rally.

Allain Cherenfan, 22, of Hyde Park, and a member of Black Lives Matter, said it is important for the city to recognize that the majority of its residents are facing issues regarding racial disparity.

“If most of these people share experiences of being brutalized by the police, arrested with no charges, being stopped-and-frisked for no reason and being abused of their rights, this is something that we need to take notice of,” he said. “We are not a city like Ferguson, [Missouri] that was created out of ‘white flight.’”

Theadora Fisher, 36, of Jamaica Plain, said the unfair treatment of blacks throughout the United States takes away citizen’s basic rights.

“This is a really important issue that’s impacting communities across the country, and I’m really glad that Boston is creating a movement and taking a stand,” she said. “It’s a basic question of equality and justice. No one should live in fear when they walk down the street.”

Michael Mongeau, 45, traveled to Boston from Amherst to participate in the protest against racism and discrimination of minorities by police officers.

“I’m here to show solidarity with anyone that wants to call the police out for their discrimination to minorities,” he said. “To show the police that their policies and beliefs are wrong. We’re here to show solidarity, and that’s a positive thing.”

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