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Police reform activists celebrate Chauvin verdict

Murder conviction counters trend of cops going free

Morgan C. Mullings
Staff reporter covering state and local politics. Report for America Corps Member. VIEW BIO
Police reform activists celebrate Chauvin verdict
Demonstrators march down Malcolm X Boulevard in Roxbury last Wednesday. BANNER PHOTO

Activists against police violence took to the streets immediately after the surprise conviction of former cop Derek Chauvin on three counts surrounding the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Many were elated to see a conviction after years of watching officers around the country get acquitted and keep their jobs after being caught on tape killing unarmed Black individuals. Others were adamant that the fight continue, as many in Boston and surrounding cities are fighting their own cases of police brutality.

At a rally in Nubian Square on Wednesday, April 21 organized by Violence in Boston, Monica Cannon Grant, the group’s founder, said the change came about through the power of protest.

“Let’s be clear: It was not elected officials. It was not the district attorney or state attorney. It was us coming outside. I don’t know if y’all remember, but I remember the initial DA didn’t want to prosecute,” Grant said to the crowd gathered opposite the Area B2 substation.

After Floyd’s death in May of 2020, Hennepin, Minnesota County Attorney Mike Freeman was famously quoted saying he would not “rush” to convict the officers involved.

“But we protested across this country,” Grant continued. “And we showed up in numbers for a whole year consecutively. That is civil rights. If you ever wondered what a civil rights movement looks like, welcome. You’re here now.”

Former state Rep. Evandro Carvalho joined the rally in Nubian Square. He called the verdict historical and noted that systemic changes led to the conviction, including Keith Ellison’s election as attorney general.

“The system worked,” he told the Banner. “It’s a rare thing, unfortunately. But this is the system working for Black people.”

Carvalho, a former Suffolk County prosecutor, championed the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus criminal justice reform legislation, which was signed into law earlier this year. He said the murder of George Floyd generated the momentum that led to systemic change. The crowd marched down to the Boston Police Department Headquarters where they were met by a group of officers. They chanted “No justice, no peace, f*** the police,” across the street from the building in the rain.

Carla Sheffield, mother of Burrel Ramsey-White who was killed by Boston Police in 2012. PHOTO: MORGAN C. MULLINGS

The actions continued throughout the week into the weekend, when Mass Action Against Police Brutality gathered a crowd of allies at Doherty Park to bring attention to police brutality in Boston and continue to react to the Chauvin trial.

Families who are part of the Mass Action group rally regularly to bring attention to cases of their own family members who they say were killed by police officers in Boston and surrounding cities.

Carla Sheffield, the mother of Burrell Ramsey White, told the story of her son’s death after a Boston police officer shot him in what he said was self-defense. The officer was cleared of the charges in 2013.

“What no one knows is that the only story that is out is what the Boston Police put out,” Sheffield said in a speech to the crowd.

As for Floyd’s case, Sheffield was glad to finally hear of a conviction.

“I felt like I could breathe,” she told the Banner. “Now it gives me hope that I can come out here and achieve some kind of accountability with my community.”

She was joined by another mother fighting to reopen the case of her son’s death. Hope Coleman’s son Terrence was shot and killed by a Boston Police officer while experiencing mental distress in 2016.

“He was already gone, and they still lied and said my son died on the way to the hospital,” Coleman said to the crowd. She was joined by three of Terrance’s young relatives, who Coleman says are “traumatized” by his death.

“George Floyd’s family, my prayers go out to you and anyone who’s lost a child,” she said.

The families say the fight to reopen those cases and several more is strengthened by the verdict in Floyd’s case.

Mass Action organizer Brock Satter said the families plan to keep organizing until the cases are reopened and justice is achieved. In addition, the Black activist community across the nation is mourning two more police-related deaths during the week of the Chauvin trial: 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in Ohio and 20-year-old Daunte  Wright in Minnesota.

“As we work with a lot of these families and get to know them across the country,” Satter said, “you can pick any day on the calendar and somebody’s anniversary or somebody’s birthday is being commemorated by a family that lost their loved one to police in this country.”

Many people who followed Chauvin’s trial online expressed their solidarity at the protest, after hearing about it through social media. Emerson student Neiko Pittman and his friends held signs at the front of the crowd making its way from the park down to Ashmont.

“There’s so many more people out there that you just don’t hear about, and you should make an effort to educate yourself like I tried to do today,” Pittman said, “You can actually be there for the families that are suffering.”

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