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A growing push for abolition among anti-police violence demonstrators

Protestors in Boston say 'enough is enough'

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
A growing push for abolition among anti-police violence demonstrators
Demonstrators march on Columbus Ave. en route to the Boston Common. Banner photo

As the trial was underway for a former Minneapolis police officer who last May killed George Floyd, 10 miles away in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, a police officer on April 11 shot dead Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old father, during a traffic stop. That shooting, along with the March 29 fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo by Chicago police, has sparked protests across the country.

In Boston, demonstrators organized by the Freedom Fighters Coalition gathered across the street from the Area B-2 police station in Roxbury Saturday to speak out against police violence. Many advocated abolition of police departments.

“As a movement, we’re past thoughts and prayers,” said Elana Lane, a first-year student at Northeastern University, who told the gathering in Roxbury that she believes in abolishing police. “As a movement, we’re past simply declaring that Black lives matter.”

Like Lane, many of those present called for replacing police departments with other public safety services.

Nino Brown, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, subscribes to the idea that policing in the United State evolved from slave catchers.

“The police as an institution were not rooted in protecting people,” he told the Banner. “They’re a holdover from the slave system. They should have been abolished during reconstruction.”

Calls for the abolition of police departments have increased during recent years as successive waves of demonstrations have swept the nation in the wake of prominent police killings over the last eight years.

Some activists and elected officials advocate de-funding police — taking funding away from police departments and reinvesting the money in preventive strategies such as anti-violence initiatives and social services that provide teens with resources.

In Austin, Texas, the city council last year voted to cut the police department budget by one-third, channeling the funds to violence prevention and food access programs.

Abolition is a more radical strategy. One version of abolition calls for closing down an existing police department and creating a new one. Camden, New Jersey closed its department in 2012 and replaced it with a new one in response to allegations of widespread corruption.

Most of the speakers and participants in Saturday’s demonstration didn’t specify whether anything should replace a closed Boston Police Department.

Lane, the Northeastern student, said the Boston police are too corrupt to be reformed. She cited the case of Patrick Rose, the former head of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Union who served on the force for more than 20 years despite allegations he sexually assaulted a minor that an internal police investigation determined were credible.

“A system that allows for that cannot be reformed,” Lane said. “This city’s police system has time and time again shown that they will continue to break the rules.”

Ernst Jean-Jacques, who was arrested by Swampscott police after an officer said he struck a pro-Trump protester during a December rally in the North Shore town, said his experience there has strengthened his resolve to push for abolishing police departments.

“At this point, there should be calls for nothing less than abolition,” he told the Banner. “The police have shown that they think Black people are inferior. We have to start over with something fresh, because what we have now is not a system that serves the public.”

Demonstrators marched from Nubian Square through the South End to the Boston Common, where speakers addressed a crowd of several hundred.

Some of the demonstrators who turned out said they were hopeful that the Black Lives Matter movement will read to real change. Nino Brown said he’s seen more solidarity between Blacks, Latinos, whites and Asians in the anti-police-violence movement.

“The cause is expanding to include the whole working class,” he said. “What brings us together is greater than what divides us.”

Ruthzee Louijeune, an attorney who is running for an at-large seat on the Boston City Council, said the demonstration Saturday gave her a chance to experience solidarity.

“This was a very exhausting week,” she said. “A very tough week to be black in this country. When you see what happened to Daunte White and Adam Toledo, you just want to gather with people to say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Adem Toledo, black lives matter, Dante Wright, defund the police, police abolition