Protestors March Through Cambridge

Protestors March Through Cambridge

Hundreds of marchers, protesting police killings of unarmed black men, made their way through Cambridge Friday night.

  • Posted on: 6 December 2014
  • By: stannenb

Marchers protesting the killings of unarmed African-Americans and the subsequent failure to indict the police officers who killedmade their way through Cambridge Friday evening. The peaceful march disrupted traffic along Mass Ave, as demonstrators, organized by Tufts University students, marched from Davis Square to the Mass Ave bridge, staging die-ins at each major square.

As the march approached Central Square, the crowd, initially estimated in the few hundreds, seemed to have grown. Patrons at Central Square bars and restaurants stood outside to join in chants of "Black lives matter" and "This is what democracy looks like" as pedestrians raised their arms in the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" gesture that has come to symbolize these protests. Cambridge Police stopped traffic to clear the way and the marchers lay down, filling the Mass Ave/Prospect Street intersection. This die-in, like the others along the route, lasted 4.5 minutes, symbolizing the 4.5 hours that the body of Michael Brown stayed lay on the street after being shot by Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson.

Central Square die in #cambma #blacklivesmatter #enoughisenough
According to the National Journal, the "die-in", a tactic that evolved from a longer history of sit down strikes, first saw its use on Earth Day 1970, when protestors from Harvard University staged a die in at Logan Airport.

Marchers continued down Mass Ave, reaching a police line blocking access to Memorial Drive and the Harvard Bridge. After another die-in, march organizers called "white allies to the front", requesting that white members of the group stand toe-to-toe with the police. While no police were seen in riot gear - just warm uniforms for the cold night - all were carrying plastic ties, signalling their readiness to make mass arrests. While initial press reports, based on police radio traffic, had said that marchers would not be allowed to "take" the bridge, police changed tactics, holding the march until Boston Police could mobilize to clear streets and stop traffic.

This march was one of a series of protests in the Boston area over the past few days. Thursday night, thousands of protestors gathered at Boston's Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, splitting into multiple marches, shutting down traffic in many locations and briefly occupying the Park Street MBTA station. Earlier in the week, Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School students joined with Harvard Law students to stage a protest in Harvard Square.

View from behind police line. No riot gear but lots of plastic cuffs #cambma #blacklivesmatter #enoughisenough
Police line at Harvard Bridge

This section of Mass Ave near MIT was the site of a 1972 march that ended very differently. Riot police, seeking to block marchers from repeating a 1970 riot that had heavily damaged Harvard Square, lined up at the railroad tracks and forced demonstrators onto the MIT campus. MIT, which had just concluded a largely unsuccessful anti-Vietnam war student strike and ROTC occupation, was uninvolved in this demonstration, until marchers and police streamed down Mass Ave and onto the plaza in front of the Student Center. Police repeatedly drove demonstrators and students alike, including this author, into the Student Center, McCormick Hall or into west campus. When police action diminished, people, including increasing numbers of curious MIT students, trickled back to the plaza, only to be met by volleys of tear gas and pepper spray. Police were seen aiming tear gas and pepper spray canisters at individuals, causing injuries and, in one case, severely beat a protestor who attempted to throw a tear gas grenade back at the police. In what then MIT President Jerome Weisner termed "a bloody mess", emphasizing that police had not been invited on campus, six minor and four serious injuries were reported.

There were no injuries or arrests reported from Friday's march, and no riot gear was in evidence.

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This work by Saul Tannenbaum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.