Protesters marched to Boston City Hall over Breonna Taylor case


Lizzie Heintz

Protesters carry a banner that read “Justice for Breonna Taylor” on Friday.

By Andrew Brinker and Diti Kohli

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Boston Friday evening to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Louisville woman fatally shot by police in her home last March. 

Vigils, rallies, and demonstrations across the city dedicated to Taylor began on Wednesday, after a grand jury declined to charge the white police officers with her death. The only charge filed in the case was a count of wanton endangerment against one ex-officer for firing his gun into Taylor’s neighbor’s apartment.

No officers were charged with causing Taylor’s death.

Lance Jackson, a speaker at the demonstration and member of Boston-based advocacy group Power to the People, said the circumstances around the death of Taylor, a Black woman, were horrendous but not unexpected.

“History has a way of repeating itself in a system that is designed to continuously get unjust verdicts,” Jackson said in an interview after the protest. “One bullet that was shot at the police does not justify 22 or 27 bullets that were shot into the home.”

While wearing masks and touting cardboard signs, throngs of people—many of them young college students—marched from Nubian Square to Boston City Hall. The crowd, growing in size as it snaked through the city, stopped at the Boston Police Department Headquarters before reaching the Theater District. 

Groups of Emerson students could be seen leaving dorm buildings and heading towards Washington Street as the crowd neared campus.

Protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, these racist cops have got to go,” while walking past the Paramount Theatre. Other times, they screamed “No good cops in a racist system” and “No justice, no peace.” No large groups marched through the rest of the college’s downtown campus. 

The march remained peaceful, despite heavy police presence around the Boston Common and Tremont Street starting at 5 p.m. Friday. 

Jackson said crowds showed reserve around lines of police officers. 

“It was good for the sake of safety,” Jackson said. “Everyone got home safely. No one provoked the police though everyone had every single right to. We were able to instill in everybody that no one was prepared for that type of battle just yet.”

Similar protests have taken place across the country this week, including in Taylor’s Kentucky hometown. Several other demonstrations are slated in Boston for this weekend as well. 

On Friday, a wall of officers stood near protesters on the top of a Boston City Hall staircase, looking on as the march eventually came to a halt at the back of the building. There, representatives from local advocacy organizations gave speeches from the bed of a pickup truck.

One speaker from Black Boston 2020 said the story of Taylor’s death is “chilling.”

“When you’re sleeping, you should be able to expect to wake up,” she said. “Breonna, as Black woman, I genuinely do not have the words or the emotional capacity to express how deeply and truly sorry I am. Sorry that our ancestors were stripped of their livelihoods and humanities, ripped off the shores of Africa, torn from their homes to be brought to a country that systematically impoverishes, incarcerates, and ultimately slaughters them, [and] now us.”

Organizers also sporadically encouraged crowds to social distance, reminding them the pandemic still looms large as a threat, especially to marginalized communities. 

“We’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” they shouted at city hall. “Everyone take six steps back.”