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Boston's mayor and police commissioner urged activists Tuesday to hold off on a planned "die-in" protesting police violence during the city's annual New Year's Eve festivities.
Mayor Martin Walsh and Police Commissioner William Evans said the city will honor the protesters' First Amendment right to demonstrate on Dec. 31. But they suggested the family-friendly First Night event is not the proper venue to address recent police killings of unarmed black men and boys in the U.S.
"This isn't the event to do this," Evans said. "If you walk down there, it's all 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds. I don't think they have to see (that) behavior. They don't understand what is going on. They are still very innocent."
Walsh agreed: "At some point, we have to have a dialogue about where we go from here. Protesting is great to get your point across. But the conversation has to happen around what are the answers people are looking for so that we can explain what we have done as a police department and as a city. We've done some hard work around race relations, in particular."
Evans suggested many of the protesters are from outside the city trying to "capitalize" on recent events and do not reflect the relations between law enforcement and the community in Boston. "The majority of the community is behind us," he said.
If activists decide to demonstrate as planned at Copley Square, Walsh and Evans said they should be "respectful" of police and First Night revelers.
Now in its 39th year, First Night draws tens of thousands with a mix of ice sculptures, music, fireworks and other family-friendly activities. Its emphasis on wholesome, non-alcohol-fueled fun has inspired hundreds of similar celebrations around the world.
The group "First Night Against Police Violence" said it expects at least 100 people will participate in its New Years' Eve "die-in," in which activists lie down in the street pretending to be dead. The Associated Press sent Facebook messages to three organizers seeking comment.
Similar protests have occurred in Boston and other cities in response to recent decisions by grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City not to charge white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.
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