Boston Protests Target Tamir Rice Decision and Police Brutality as Grand Jury Fails to Indict Cleveland Police Officers

On Tuesday, Dec. 29, more than 50 Bostonian denizens braved the freezing temperatures and rain to partake in a protest to honor the memory of Tamir Rice, the 12-year old child shot and killed in Cleveland, Ohio, last year by a white police officer. The protestors, huddled under the cement roof outside the Jackson Square T stop, also targeted the issue of police brutality as a focal point in a demonstration of resolute civil obedience.

Exhibiting solidarity and solemnity whilst carrying signs reading “Justice for Tamir Rice,” the crowd chanted for egalitarian treatment for all in accordance with the law and criticized the wanton conduct of the police across the nation. Organized by the group Mass. Action Against Brutality, the protest was a reaction to a Cleveland grand jury’s decision regarding the tragedy.

The Cleveland grand jury declined on Monday, Dec. 28, to charge a Cleveland patrolman who fatally shot a 12-year old boy holding a pellet gun, capping more than a year of investigation into a case that abetted the national outrage over white officers killing African Americans. In announcing the decision, Timothy J. McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, stated that he had recommended that the grand jurors not bring charges in the killing of Tamir Rice, who was playing with the pellet gun outside a recreation center in November 2014.

McGinty stated that the fatal encounter had been a grave tragedy and a “perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications.” Additionally, he asserted that the enhancement of video from the scene had made it indisputable that Tamir was drawing the pellet gun from his waistband when he was shot, either to surrender the object’s custody to the officers or to demonstrate that it was not a real firearm. McGinty stated conclusively that there was no reason for the officers to know that, and that the officer who opened fire, Timothy Loehmann, was within good reason to fear for his life.

The case commenced when a caller to 911 stated that a male was pointing a gun at denizens in a Cleveland park. The caller asserted that the gun was “probably fake,” and that the person waving it was “probably a juvenile.” However, those caveats were not relayed to Officer Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback, who was driving the patrol car. Officer Loehmann opened fire within seconds of arriving at the park. Officer Garmback was also spared any charges.

“We went [to Cleveland] for the one year anniversary,” said Tahia Sykes, one of the group’s organizers. “We were there and participated in solidarity events there.” Some protesters shared uplifting poetry, songs meant to inspire others into action and their own stories regarding alleged police brutality. One protester cited the potential for conflict from Northeastern University’s recent decision to arm campus authorities with semi-automatic rifles.

“What happened to Tamir Rice and the [grand jury’s] non-decision was… a surprise, but at the same time, it’s expected,” said Nino Brown, a fellow organizer. “This isn’t the first emergency demonstration we’ve had to hold.”

Although a number of officers have been charged this year for on-duty killings, in cities including Cincinnati and Baltimore, others have not faced indictment. McGinty asserted that no matter how tragic the circumstances involving Tamir’s death may have been, the law bestows the benefit of the doubt upon officers who operate within the confines of the probable cause proviso and must make split-second decisions. 

The protesters acknowledged the proliferation in nationwide instances of police brutality as demanding the concern and undivided attention of the populace. “This is our lives, our society, our so-called democracy on the line,” said Brown.

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