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‘Black lives matter’ protest takes a dangerous turn for Roxbury woman

Galicia Escarfullery
‘Black lives matter’ protest takes a dangerous turn for Roxbury woman
Galicia Escarfullery after being arrested during Tuesday’s protest. (Photo: Photo Courtesy Galicia Escarfullery)

Police formed at line on the bridge to the Interstate 93 on-ramp, preventing protesters from advancing to the highway.

I decided to join the protest on November 25th, because it was the right thing to do. Ever since Mike Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, I have been waiting for justice. I had a small amount of hope that our justice system would do right by us. Instead I sat at home and watched as the prosecutor delivered what seemed to be a defense team’s opening statement before telling us that the grand jury decided not to indict the murderer of Mike Brown.

At that moment I was in disbelief. My rage, disgust and indignation with the American justice system exceeded any emotion I had ever known. I had already decided that I would join the protest because this is not just about Mike Brown, this is about all people of color. I cannot stand by and wait until one of my neighbors, friends, or family members gets murdered to stand and fight. The time for the nation to realize that Black Lives Matter is now!

When I joined the protest I was filled with a feeling of pride. Boston had really come out in solidarity to tell the nation that Black Lives Matter. There were people of every race and from all parts of the city. It is true that it was a peaceful protest as other outlets have reported. But it was peaceful on our side. Those of us who were there with the purpose of making sure the nation sees that this is not just a Ferguson problem, but a nationwide problem, were peaceful. We have seen way too often how little this country values black lives and how police brutality against people of color is sanctioned.

While at the protest I stood in the front lines, face to face with the police officers of my city. They had formed a barricade to stop us from blocking the I-93 bridge. We stood chanting asking the police to back up. Shortly after the crowd began walking forward and the police were pushing back. We asked for no violence but the pushing continued, now in both directions. However, none of the protesters crossed the line that had been formed by the barricade. Not on our own anyway.

Inmates at the South Bay House of Correction joined the protest. One inmate wrote the name of slain Ferguson teenager Michael Brown in his cell window.

A police officer picked me up over the line and threw me on the ground. I was picked up by another officer who told me I was being arrested. I immediately stood still and put my hands behind my back. He put a zip tie on my right hand but was having trouble with the second one and told me to, “Stop resisting.” As I was being arrested I saw a friend of mine face down on the ground with three officers on top of him. He also was not moving. When he told them he couldn’t breathe, one officer replied, “You can talk so you can breathe.”

There were eight other women with me in the wagon. The woman right next to me was beaten pretty badly, bleeding from her nose and face. We were taken to the station and put in a cell together. At this point the use of excessive force was unquestionable. There were 13 of us brought in and I was able to see how badly beaten some of them were, bloody and with their faces already swelling. One woman informed me that I was also bleeding from my nose and that I had a bruise under my right eye.

An officer came in and started taking down our names and dates of birth. By the time he was halfway through the room he stopped and said, “You’re all so young, what’s going on here?” To which one of the young women replied, “This is our generation we’re fighting for.” Most of us are in our twenties. Throughout all this we still had our hands behind our backs with zip ties cutting into our wrists. We remained this way until we began being called one by one and put in cells.

As they began asking for our individual information they discovered that we all work and/or are full time students with no prior criminal record. We remained in custody for close to eight hours, and were released one by one with a $40 bail and a slip saying we had to report to court the next morning, our offense was listed as, “disturbing the peace.”

Chris Grant, Tony Van Der Meer and Clifton Braithwaite listen to speakers at the Dudley Square rally. Behind them, protesters aim their signs toward the Area B2 police station.

The irony of it all is surreal. We went out on Tuesday night to protest the numerous acts of police brutality that has been sweeping the nation, and the nation’s inaction in protecting its citizens of color by not holding the police departments involved accountable for the actions of their officers. We wanted to make the nation see that this affects us all and that we will no longer stand for it. In return we were faced with and subjected to the very same types of abuses we were there to protest.

Thankfully, it has not all been in vain. The protests have continued throughout the nation and President Obama is now advocating having law enforcement officials use body cameras. This measure, many of us believe, will deter a large amount of violence against citizens, make it easier to hold law enforcement officials accountable for their actions and save many lives. It is not the only solution to the problem but it will be a big step forward.

Galicia Escarfullery is a Roxbury resident and a student at UMass Boston.