City officials praise peaceful protests and denounce violence


Parker Purifoy

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh speaking at a press conference on June 1, 2020.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh thanked protesters who remained peaceful during Sunday’s Black Lives Matter protest during a press conference Monday and condemned those who looted stores and clashed with police.

Thousands gathered throughout Boston on Sunday and converged on the steps of the State House to peacefully protest nationwide police brutality. Afterwards, chaos and violence broke out downtown and in Back Bay between police and protesters.

“I don’t want anything to take away from what [the peaceful protesters] accomplished, any impact that they had yesterday,” Walsh said. “Your words, your testimony, and your call to action move me and you are moving our society forward.”

The mayor went on to speak against the riots downtown, calling the actions of some protestors a violent attack on the city of Boston and its values. Nine police officers and 18 civilians were taken to the hospital and dozens of others were treated for injuries in the field during the course of Sunday evening, Walsh said.  

Twenty one police vehicles were also destroyed and several downtown and Back Bay businesses were vandalized or looted. Walsh also condemned the vandalization of the Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54 Regiment memorial, which honors African American civil war veterans from Massachusetts.

“That memorial is sacred to black Boston and our country,” Walsh said. “This was the last thing that our city very quite honestly needed. Some of those stores have been hurt badly by the pandemic and are just on the verge to come back.”

Police Commissioner William Gross and Suffolk District Attorney Rachel Rollins also spoke at the press conference, where Gross thanked protesters for their peace and message.

Gross pointed out that the protest itself was peaceful and the violence only started after the protest had ended. About half of the 53 protesters arrested Sunday were from outside of Boston and two from other states, he said. 

“We have work to do folks so let’s remember this: The whole nation began here,” Gross said. “We will set the example and show that we can work together in making sure that this destination city, the start of our nation, is a shining example for all.”

Rollins also spoke against the violent protesters for tainting the memories of Black people who have died at the hands of police.

“Currently as we speak there are three sessions of the Boston Municipal court that are actively involved with my staff and the hardworking men and women of the Boston Police Department, prosecuting individuals that disgraced George Floyd’s memory by looting and burning police cars and throwing objects and debris, and in fact even shooting at officers,” Rollins said. “That is unacceptable. You will be prosecuted and held accountable.” 

Rollins also remarked on the exhaustion of the city’s Black community and said that the sentiments expressed at Sunday’s protests are long-standing complaints.

“This burning rage you are seeing when you turn on your TV and you hear in my voice is real,” Rollins said. “To the white community who are just waking up and seeing this video, we have been saying this forever.”