Opinion written by Live Boston Co-Founder and Executive Director Cam G
On the night of Sunday May 31st, our photographers set out to capture the images of an exciting and historic march in response to the death of George Floyd. To our disappointment this overwhelming peaceful and amazing assembly of community members from around the commonwealth quickly Deteriorated into a violent, aggressive, unlawful riot. Even the organizers of the event openly admitted to refusing to work with City Hall and the Police stating in an interview, “We didn’t work with any city officials and we definitely didn’t work with the police, we didn’t have that conversation with them.”
More than 7 Officers were hospitalized, 21 Police Vehicles destroyed, over 120 stores vandalized, an estimated 16 rounds fired at Officers, and at least one IED device detonated towards officers in what we consider a domestic attack during the riots. Police officers were not the only victims of the rioting with members of the media finding themselves victim, with news vehicles destroyed, cameras stolen and photographers and journalists attacked.
Owners of local stores, many minority owned were left shocked by the madness with one commenting during an interview “It made me feel like, what did I do to deserve this? I mean, you talk about justice — this is injustice,” said the store owner. “What did I do to deserve this? What purpose does this serve? What good does this give to anyone? Nothing.”
Yet without the support of City Hall or Mayor Marty Walsh, Officers held their posts and tried to quell the uprising before innocent citizens could be caught up in the midsts. Enduring countless physical and verbal assaults. Dogging the flying feces, urine bricks and metal objects hurtled in their direction these officers stood firm. They did not back down. The did not turn and run. And fully knowing the elected political leaders would not have their back‘s, they still chose to do the right thing and protect our city.
I’m sure by now most of our readers have seen the snippets of body camera footage from the night, however these tapes only show one half of the story. These videos claim to attempting to “highlight” what some would deem inappropriate behavior by officers during the protest. The problem is most have never had to stand on that line. Most have never had to wear that badge. Most would never.
These illegally leaked videos that only Boston Police and the District Attorney’s Office had possession of were published by a man named Eoin Higgins, a unemployed notoriously anti-police writer, only show a total of less than 10-15 minutes of the all night chaos. These videos show a few moments of Officers making joking comments about recovered property, comments about protesters throwing objects including their own bodies at cruisers, communicating with other officers about who to arrest, and use of non-lethal force on illegally assembled groups. All of which which reasonable.
The Boston Police Patrolman’s Association, which represents most of the officers seen in the videos echoed our cry, stating that “a defense attorney who, after stitching together several contextually deficient video snippets” in a desperate attempt to try and sway public option. It’s pathetic.
These uses of force which were within department guidelines, duly provoked, and reasonable only came after the violent mob began attacking Officers with multiple units calling OTs at different locations and times. The direct defiance of lawful orders to disperse coupled with the violent and aggressive actions of the mob of protesters fully justified the non-leathal uses of force. Pushing protestors back physically, deploying OC spray to force the retreat of the mob were completely reasonable as officers attempted to retake the area in an effort to stop the looting and violence.
Yet politicians continue their spineless pandering. Mayoral hopeful Michell Wu indirectly called for the resignation of BPD Commissioner Gross, claiming that “changes in leadership” were needed. Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins openly admitted to not even fully reviewing the videos but quickly jumped to conclusions stating the Officer’s actions were, “incredibly troubling.” Even the Boston Police Commissioner, who normally doesn’t lower himself to the standers of the Boston Politicians, issued a written statement that strangely did not sound like his own words but more of those of City Hall.
That night 7 officers were injured so severely that they were sent to the hospital. That night officers merely standing on a street corner had 16 rounds fired at them simply because of the uniform they wear. That night an officer was rushed to the hospital after an improvised explosive device was thrown and detonated next to him. An officer asked to work out his experience stated, “They surrounded my cruiser and tried to light me on fire. Been a cop for a long time. But, never did I fear for my life the way I did that night.”
Again we ask as we have before. Will you hold the line? Will you stand and protect those who can not protect themselves. For sometimes less than thirty dollars and hour these brave men and women stand in the face of danger, endure unprovoked attacks, and act with only the best intent of protecting the city they love. They stand knowing that politicians, some who have details and drivers that are also officers, won’t have their backs.
Politicians who will disregard public safety in hopes of impressing radical fringe groups, and politicians who are waiting in the wings for an officer to slip up and become their next talking point. Officers who also have children and spouses at home. Family that relies on them. But to our politicians they are no more than sacrificial pawns that they can give to feed the angry mob. A mob not comprised of the majority but comprised of a the loudest voices of the fringe.
So shame on you all. Shame. The day is coming, sooner rather than later that these protectors will no longer stand their posts and we will have no one besides ourselves to blame. The day will come where they realize the risk of the job out weighs the rewards and the sacrifices are no longer worth it. I hope that day will never come but I fear we are on the fast track to it coming to a reality.