Protesters Snarl I-93 Morning Commute North And South Of Boston

Activists protesting what they call "police and state violence against black people" chained themselves to concrete-filled barrels and blocked a busy Boston-area highway at the height of the Thursday morning commute.

State police had to shut down Northbound Interstate 93 south of the city, and I-93 South, in Medford, north of the city, at about 7:30 a.m., inconveniencing thousands of drivers and causing miles-long backups.

The southbound lanes were reopened at about 8 a.m. and the northbound lanes just before 10 a.m., after police and firefighters used power saws to cut protesters out of the barrels.

The protesters north of the city chained themselves together using plastic pipes.

A total of 29 people were arrested at the two protest sites, police said. They were arraigned Thursday afternoon on various charges including disorderly conduct, trespassing and in some cases resisting arrest. All 29 were released on personal recognizance.

The protest was intended "to confront white complacency in the systemic oppression of black people in Boston," the Boston contingent of Black Lives Matter said in a statement.

"Today, our nonviolent direct action is meant to expose the reality that Boston is a city where white commuters and students use the city and leave, while black and brown communities are targeted by police, exploited, and displaced," protester Katie Seitz said in a statement.

A cut-open concrete-filled barrel used by I-93 protesters Thursday morning (Massachusetts State Police, via Facebook)
A cut-open concrete-filled barrel used by I-93 protesters Thursday morning (Massachusetts State Police, via Facebook)

The demonstrators were a "diverse non-Black group of Pan-Asians, Latinos, and white people," according to the statement.

Failures to indict white police officers blamed for the recent deaths of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City have led to protests nationwide.

The Boston protesters released a list of more than a dozen minorities they say have been killed by law enforcement in the city in the last 15 years.

State Police Col. Timothy Alben said a commuter called police at about 7:20 a.m. to say that a white box truck had stopped in the highway south of Boston and the protesters had unloaded the barrels. The first word of the protest north of the city came in minutes later.

Alben said while he understands and respects First Amendment rights, he called the protests "immature, irresponsible and reckless."

“It’s risking people’s lives," he added.

An ambulance transporting a patient with serious injuries after a car crash in Easton to a Boston hospital had to be diverted to a Brockton hospital, Alben said. The victim survived.

"We have a trauma injury to someone that happened in a place not related to Boston and that ambulance had to be redirected to another city and taken away from a Level 1 trauma center," Alben said.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the protests put the public, emergency personnel and the demonstrators themselves in danger.

"There are ways to demonstrate in a peaceful manner," Walsh said.

Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement issued by a spokeswoman that "endangering drivers and impeding access to medical facilities" was not the best way to protest.

With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press

This article was originally published on January 15, 2015.



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