By MyFM's Rick Michaels - Downtown Boston turned into a battle zone Sunday night after a peaceful protest suddenly disintegrated into a spurt of violent clashes between protestors and police, including storefront looting that Gov. Charlie Baker described just before midnight as "criminal and cowardly." He’s expected to speak about the unrest this afternoon at 3:30pm. A Black Lives Matter protest started in Nubian Square at 6:30 p.m. and people marched to the State House where others had gathered. It was one of a series of demonstrations held across the country over the weekend, pushing for racial justice and protesting the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. "If you came out today and you heard me say your voice wasn't loud enough, I need it to be louder," a protester told the gathered crowd in front of the State House. "I need it to be louder today. And I need it to be louder when you're using that white privilege and that power that systemically you were given." As the gathering began to break up after nightfall, people squared off with Boston police in Downtown Crossing and started to throw rocks and bottles. Shortly after, police deployed mace and the night plunged into chaos. "Those now protesting in the streets of Boston have surrendered the moral high ground as efforts to hurt and harm police officers continue to intensify in our city," read a statement from Boston Police on Twitter. "Men and women of BPD doing their best to restore order and keep the peace."
The National Guard was also deployed Sunday night to help quell the unrest. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement that he wanted to thank the protestors who exercised their right to protest peacefully. "I am angered, however, by the people who came into our city and chose to engage in acts of destruction and violence, undermining their message," Walsh said. "If we are to achieve change and if we are to lead the change, our efforts must be rooted in peace and regard for our community." Boston police arrested about 40 people and seven officers were injured during the protest, according to a statement from the police department. Thousands had gathered on Beacon Street, packing the area near the State House steps, earlier in the day to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. Baker said in a statement that Floyd's death at the hands of police was a horrible tragedy. "I also want to express my gratitude to all the police officers and other first responders working to protect the people of Boston the individuals whose violent actions, looting and property destruction was criminal and cowardly - and distracted from the powerful statement made today by thousands of Massachusetts residents," the statement read. Under the Golden Dome, a surreal scene unfolded in what would normally have been empty hallways as state troopers donned protective gear and carried non-lethal compressed air guns.
After hours of rallying in front of the State House, protestors split into various groups around downtown. Clashes were widespread and at one point people began to loot the Walgreens at Washington and Essex streets. A shoe store on Washington Street was smashed open, the door ajar, a sneaker and a workboot mixed with the shattered glass on the sidewalk. Nearby, in front of the Beantown Pub, a Boston police cruiser burned behind a line of police officers as protestors yelled "I can't breathe," a reference to Floyd's death. Protestors threw items including rocks, bottles, bricks and at one point garbage cans and the rim of a tire at police along Tremont Street while law enforcement fought back with pepper spray. Barricades were tossed into the street to block the advancing police and one protestor smashed a Suffolk University residence hall window with a skateboard. On Sunday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo tweeted: "I grieve with the family of George Floyd and members of communities who have seen heinous incidents like these remain all too frequent in our society. This was not policing. This was a crime. I'm committed to learning from these communities and amplifying my colleagues' voices." Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge) said "I think we are facing 400 years of white supremacy in this country, and what really strikes me is that we've had four or five nights of property damage in this country. But I would like to see people in elected office respond to the 400 years of white supremacy and racial oppression, police brutality, and the profound inequality that plagues this country."