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Hundreds of people marched from Roxbury to the State House Monday to honor Rayshard Brooks, a Black man who was fatally shot by an Atlanta police officer in a fast food parking lot last week.
They also marched against police brutality and in favor of changes to policing beyond what's already been proposed by state and local officials. The protests have drawn promises from politicians to reform the police. Gov. Charlie Baker recently proposed a system that would require police to get certified every three years and take away that certification if they commit certain violations.
In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh has declared racism a public health crisis, and has proposed reducing the police department's overtime budget to fund more social services.
But when the procession reached the State House steps, march organizer Monica Cannon-Grant of the group Violence In Boston made clear that wasn't enough. She urged the crowd to call the governor's office and demand less funding for police, and more for education and social programs.
"There's so many protests happening across the state right now," Cannon-Grant said to the crowd. "Keep showing up and applying pressure. It's working! It's working!"
Cannon-Grant criticized Baker's policing bill, which would give incentives to officers who seek out training ranging from de-escalation techniques to bias-free policing. She said the money slated to fund these trainings should instead go to violence prevention programs.
“Nobody should have to pay you to not be racist... that should come as part of the job," she said. "It’s a slap in the face to every Black person in this city to [pay police] to have cultural sensitivity, not be racist, and not kill us. So essentially he wants to pay them to not kills us — that’s how I take that.”
Mica Desir, 34, marched and listened to the speeches at the State House while his two daughters, ages 5 and 9, clung to him like two oversize shoulder bags. Asked whether he saw any progress come from the protests, he pointed to the crowd.
"Everybody's together, Black, white, yellow," he said. "It's a beautiful thing to watch everyone come together for one cause. I'm glad my daughters get to be a part of that."
These protests, he said, have raised awareness that racism persists in our culture. He just hopes that all this momentum doesn't fade. "It doesn't matter what we do if we forget about it in a year."
Danielle Ruffen, of Roxbury, attended the protest as a member of a community-based group focused on natural healing, called the Sisters of the Calabash. It is personal for her because, she said, her mother was killed by the son of a law enforcement officer.
“We’re holding space for the dead, those who have been slain by law enforcement,” Ruffen said.
She sang the Sam Cooke song “A Change Is Gonna Come," at the march.
Asked if she is seeing signs of change since the death of George Floyd last month and the rise of the protest movement, Ruffen said she’s still waiting for those signs to materialize.
“In the beginning it looked like there was some hope for change, but … we have a long way to go,” she said.
Ruffen said she wants to live in a world "where everyone matters, where the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter isn’t even a thing, where everybody is equal."
A musician from Brockton who goes by the name Simba Touré walked around the edge of the crowd near the Reggie Lewis Center, where the march began, carrying a bundle of burning sage, leaving a trail of fragrant smoke.
Touré said the recent protests have brought attention to a cause many have long ignored.
"We're at a point where, as a collective people, you have to have a limit," Touré said. "And this is the beginning of a showing of the limit."
Farah Jeune, an artist from Boston, said she came out for the first time since Floyd’s death to contribute to the visibility of the cause.
“It’s really sad that during this pandemic we still have to fight this,” Jeune said. “But today I came because I felt like I was bottled up in the house and I needed to get these emotions out and be with people who feel the same way and want to fight for justice.”
She says she doesn’t feel like there’s been progress since the protests started, in part because there have been no arrests in the death of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old woman killed by Louisville police officers who entered her house in the middle of the night on a no-knock warrant.
“I hope that these protests and people speaking up and educating themselves will inspire people to have real change," Jeune said.
More photos from the Juneteenth protest:
This article was originally published on June 22, 2020.
This segment aired on June 23, 2020.
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