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Activists want action on police shooting victims

Anna Lamb
Activists want action on police shooting victims
Brock Satter with Mass Action Against Police Brutality addresses reporters. PHOTO: ANNA LAMB

Activists in Boston are using public outrage over the acquittal of 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed two people during a political demonstration in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to highlight police killings of Black Massachusetts residents and faults in the justice system.

On Monday night, a small handful of activists from Mass Action Against Police Brutality gathered outside the Massachusetts State House calling on lawmakers to reopen the cases of several Massachusetts residents in whose deaths they say police had a hand. Those mentioned include Terrence Coleman, Burrell Ramsey-White, Denis Reynoso, Ross Batista, DJ Henry, Johnny Warren and Malcolm Gracia.

Mass Action organizer Brock Satter told those gathered that those deaths have gotten unequal attention compared to Rittenhouse, who was found not guilty on Friday after it was decided that the teenager fired fatal shots at the deceased in self-defense.

“This fight is not just about police brutality. This fight is about Democratic civil and human rights in the United States of America being upheld for all,” Satter said.

He went on to say the group was demanding that Kyle Rittenhouse still be prosecuted under civil rights charges.

Additionally, Satter drew attention back to the reason Rittenhouse was in Kenosha the night of the shootings. Days before, the local police were caught on video firing seven shots at a Black man, Jacob Blake, who was partially paralyzed during the incident. Protestors took to the streets, where Rittenhouse encountered the two men whom he later shot dead.

In a statement advertising the event, Satter emphasized the connectedness of the jury’s decision Friday and the police.

“Families who have lost loved ones to police violence are not only up against the police, but the prosecutors, judges, even juries poisoned by the pro-cop rhetoric of mainstream culture, which places order before justice,” he wrote. “We understand that only when we take to the streets in our tens of millions will any significant change take place. We are committed to stand with the fighting families ‘til we win.’”

Among those who have lost a family member to police-related violence is Hope Coleman, whose son was shot in 2016 by Boston police after she called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Her son Terrence had struggled with schizophrenia.

Coleman spoke to the group gathered in front of the State House, sharing her dismay over the Rittenhouse verdict and her wish for justice in her son’s case.

“What if he was Black?” Coleman said. “They would have shot him down, and it’s not fair.”

Carla Sheffield, whose son Burrell Ramsey-White was shot dead by a Boston Police Officer in 2012, shared her thoughts on the incident with a statement read by Satter.

“A Kenosha not-guilty verdict is a slap in the face to every African American or American person who ever had to defend themselves and receive no justice or are sitting in a jail cell because they don’t have rich people money for the rich people defense,” she wrote. “This trial is reminiscent of the racism during my son’s trial.”

Also in attendance were Aaron Wilkins, whose grandfather Eurie Stamps was killed by Framingham police in 2011, and Edward Child from Boston’s Local 26 hospitality workers union. Among those that couldn’t be there but supported the cause through social media were the family members of the other people killed and mentioned by Satter. In a Facebook post on the Mass Action page, their testimonies call for legal action to be taken in their loved one’s cases.

Asked about the low in-person turnout, Satter said, “I don’t think this is a reflection of the outrage.”

He added that moving forward, the group will continue to unify the families fighting across the country for justice.

“We are committed to remain out here with these families, and we will not stop marching — till when? Till we win,” he said.