Twenty-nine protesters with the Boston contingent of “Black Lives Matter” who were arrested after shutting down two sections of a busy Boston highway on Thursday morning were arraigned and released on personal recognizance later that day.
Police say protesters blocked I-93 northbound at East Milton Square south of the city and I-93 southbound at Mystic Avenue in Medford north of the city around 7:30 a.m. The protests caused massive backups during what is already typically a busy commute.
Police say the protesters in Milton chained themselves to 1,200-pound barrels filled with concrete and then formed a human chain across the roadway, attaching themselves to each other by passing their arms thorugh an interlocking device and chaining themselves to the inside of the barrels. Some of them were wearing adult diapers, police said, indicating that they planned to stay on the highway for a long time.
State police said 29 protesters were arrested for causing “serious risk to public safety.” More information is expected to be released at an 11:30 a.m. press conference at state police headquarters.
One person was seen holding a sign that reads “united against racism,” and the protesters issued a statement saying they wanted to “disrupt business as usual” and protest “police and state violence against black people” in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Today, our nonviolent direct action is meant to expose the reality that Boston is a city where white commuters and students use the city and leave, while Black and Brown communities are targeted by police, exploited, and displaced,” said Katie Seitz, one of the activists.
“We must remember, Ferguson is not a faraway Southern city. black men, women and gender-nonconforming people face disproportionately higher risk of profiling, unjust incarceration, and death,” added activist Nguyen Thi Minh Thu. “Police violence is everywhere in the United States.”
Failure to indict police blamed for the recent deaths of black men at the hands of white police in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City have led to protests nationwide.
As of 8:30 a.m., officials confirmed that the protesters on I-93 southbound in Medford had been removed and all lanes were open.
NECN’s Jeff Saperstone said Boston firefighters were called in to help out in Milton, and used chainsaws and bandsaws to cut through the barrels and free the protesters. He said all of the protesters were removed as of 9:45 a.m. and all lanes reopened.
The protests drew angry reaction both from those who got caught in the mess and others who just felt they were a poor idea.
“I am all for protesting, however… this is NOT the place to do it,” said Tom Crutchfield.
Easton firefighters said on Facebook that an ambulance had to divert from a local trauma center to a local hospital due to the traffic disruption, which affected the patient’s ability to get to the proper facility for treatment. State police said the victim was suffering from life-threatening injuries from a motor vehicle accident.
Pete Frates, an ALS patient who inspired the Ice Bucket Challenge, frequently travels into Boston for treatment. He took to Twitter to express his frustration with the protest.
.@TimAlben mentions unintended consequences. I have and will again need to be taken by ambulance to MGH. Today could've been a very bad day.
— Pete Frates (@PeteFrates3) January 15, 2015
“We clearly understand first amendment rights and we respect those,” Massachusetts State Police Colonel Superintendent Tim Allen said. “And I think we give great leeway for people to go out there and express those rights.”
He added, “If you go out to an interstate highway, you are endangering your lives. You are endangering the lives of those people that are on the highway and you’re endangering the lives of people that are in neither one of those places.”
During a Wednesday radio appearance on WGBH, Gov. Charlie Baker said blocking traffic was a “bad idea,” and went “above and beyond” a typical protest. He added that he thought the protesters were “appropriately arrested” for their actions.
The following individuals were arrested and charged in Quincy District Court:
- Nicole Sullivan, 24 of Somerville
- Nelli Routsalanien, 25, of Roxbury
- James Billman, 25, of Brookline
- Brett West, 26, of Boston
- Jeremy Bingham, 23, of Arlington
- Mark Schwaller, 29, of Jamaica Plain
- Noah McKenna, 28, of Boston
- Angela Davis, 43, of Somerville
- Eli Cohen, 26, of Somerville
- Emily Osmun, 34, of Somerville
- William Connolly, 26, of Hanson
In addition, the following individuals were arrested and charged in Somerville District Court:
- Ana Cancino of the South End
- Jackson Chan of the Back Bay
- Sabrina Ghaus of Dorchester
- Nancy Griffin of Brighton
- Johannes Huessy of Roxbury
- Kendra Jae of Jamaic Plain
- Mallory Kaczmarek of Roxbury
- Jacquelyn Lemus of East Boston
- Diana Mai of Allston
- Monica Majewski of Dorchester
- Thu Nquyen of Jamaica Plain
- Katharine Seitz of Dorchester
- Kathryn Selcraig of Somerville
- David Voutour of Somerville