Mayor Walsh Urges Peaceful Boston Protests After Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks to the media about the passing of his predecessor, Tom Menino. (Jesse Costa/AP)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks to the media about the passing of his predecessor, Tom Menino. (Jesse Costa/AP)

Mayor Marty Walsh is calling on people in Boston to express themselves peacefully when a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, decides whether to indict police Officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

"When this decision comes down, I would just ask people if there are protests — either way if there are protests — be respectful of the citizens of Boston, be respectful of the property of Boston," Walsh said in a phone interview Thursday.

The grand jury decision is imminent, perhaps Friday, and cities across the country have been making preparations to deal with any demonstrations that may occur.

Walsh said he's been meeting with Boston Police Commissioner William Evans and Supt.-in-Chief William Gross for several weeks about Ferguson, in addition to community leaders and other elected officials. He said the city is prepared for whatever might happen and Boston has already successfully handled two protests related to Ferguson.

"I don’t see a need to call in the National Guard or have a military-type presence in the street," Walsh said. "Our police department does a very good job of making sure that we keep the residents in the city safe while allowing people the opportunity to express themselves."

This week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to "ensure public safety" because of the "possibility of expanded unrest." Protesters and other groups there have also been preparing for the decision.

Earlier Thursday, Boston Police Commissioner Evans issued a statement calling on college students who may choose to demonstrate to do so "in a way that would make your school, your family, and your city proud."

"What happened in Ferguson, it’s not Boston, it hasn't happened in Boston," Walsh said. "Certainly there’s nothing wrong with expressing yourself, but just do it in an orderly fashion. We’re not looking for destruction of property and problems like that."

Boston Public Schools have also been coordinating with the city and school leaders to prepare for the grand jury decision, and expect to incorporate the Ferguson case in the classroom.

"We can learn a lot from what is happening in Missouri," Boston Public Schools spokesman Lee McGuire said. "It’s an important lesson to learn as a school community and we’re trying to direct whatever energy it is into a positive experience so that our students can learn from this and we can move forward as a school community."

In Ferguson, tensions have persisted since the shooting of Brown. Demonstrators have continued to call for a trial and law enforcement has been criticized for its military-like response to the protests.

A commission has been set up to study the underlying issues raised by the shooting, including race relations, policing tactics and various socioeconomic issues in Ferguson. That 16-member commission has been asked to issue a report with policy recommendations by Sept. 15, 2015.

In Boston, some groups say the city also needs to address the issues brought to light by Ferguson — so that something like that does not happen here.

Sadiki Kambon, the director of the Black Community Information Center, said the city needs to address complaints against the police, education disparities and other issues that could contribute to racial tension.

"Let's be clear that Boston still has issues around racism," Kambon said. "So Boston or Ferguson, based on what's going on right now, no location can be seen as if it's not possible for there to be a problem."

WBUR's Deborah Becker contributed to this report.


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Zeninjor Enwemeka Senior Business Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a senior business reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.



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