Thousands in Boston Protest NYC Chokehold Decision

Protests come in the wake of a grand jury's decision not to indict a NYPD officer whose chokehold killed a man

Chanting "we can't breathe" and "black lives matter," thousands of protesters converged at Boston Common during the city's annual tree lighting ceremony in the wake of a New York grand jury's decision to not indict the police officer whose chokehold killed a man.

Protests coincided with Boston’s annual tree lighting ceremony.

Boston Police said they had extra police patrols on the Common Thursday night, and security was tight around the location where the tree lighting ceremony took place.

Ten individuals were arrested. 

Protesters surrounded the tree lighting ceremony and gathered in front of the State House on the Common, where Massachusetts State Police took a few into custody for reportedly disorderly conduct, while hundreds more marched up and down Tremont Street.

After meeting on the Common for the rally, protesters began to scatter around the city. At least 3,000 staged a peaceful protest in front of City Hall, and many more marched in the streets.

State police said protesters made it to the Washington Street Bridge and advised drivers to avoid the area and to expect delays. Rutherford Avenue was closed at Bunker Hill College as protesters marched toward the Gilmore Bridge.

Meanwhile, protesters temporarily shut down the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston near Exit 24 when they accessed it and blocked traffic. State police say they managed to get the protesters to turn back toward South Station.

Of the 10 arrests made by Mass. State Police, three were made in front of the state house and four were arrested on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

A 29-year-old Roxbury woman, a 22-year-old South End woman, and a 32-year-old Dorchester woman, all arrested by State Police, were charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for allegedly trying to breach the gate of the State House. Their cases were amended to civil infractions and they were imposed a $200 fine.

“We were standing at the State House gates and I personally was grabbed by my hair," said Seneca Joyner, "and pulled through the gates by two adult state troopers, I was ground into the pavement and I was taunted and terrorized and physically assaulted and it was awful.”

State Police strongly dispute those allegations, saying in a statement, "after ignoring orders to cease, [three women] violently resisted troopers’ attempts to return them to the outside of the gate. The three arrests were warranted and were carried out appropriately, and with all possible restraint."

A 23-year-old Back Bay woman arrested by Transit Police was charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing for blocking the stairs at Park Street station, screaming at officers, and refusing to leave the station. Her case was amended to a civil infraction with no fine.

A 19-year-old Watertown woman and a 26-year-old Newton woman, both arrested by Boston Police, were charged with disturbing the peace and trespassing for blocking traffic at a Route 93 on-ramp. Their cases were amended to civil infractions with no fine.

A 29-year-old Dorchester woman, a 28-year-old Dorchester man, a 24-year-old Jamaica Plain man, and a 31-year-old Dorchester man, all arrested by State Police, were charged with disorderly conduct, trespassing, and resisting arrest for marching on a Massachusetts Turnpike off-ramp and refusing to leave the roadway. Their cases were amended to civil infractions and they were imposed a $200 fine.

Others were more hesitant to blame police for injuries they sustained when they were arrested after blocking traffic on the pike.

“I got in a fight with the asphalt,” Sagan Gray said with a smirk.

“I can’t speak for everyone else that was arrested but the police did what they had to do," added Kenny Mascaroi.

The MBTA also suspended the Green Line from North Station to Boylston Street as protesters staged a "die-in" on the street car tracks inside Park Street. The Red Line was also suspended at Park Street in both directions. Commuters were asked to use the Orange Line stations and the Red Line's station at Downtown Crossing.

GALLERY: Protesters Take to Streets of Boston

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is urged protesters to be peaceful at the rally, which was planned for 7 p.m. during the ceremony.

According to the Associated Press, Patrick said he's disappointed in the grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, especially since there was video of the officer holding him in a chokehold as Garner said over and over, "I can't breathe."

Overnight, Massachusetts State Police's Col. Timothy Alben issued a statement commending "restraint and integrity" shown by law enforcement officers during the demonstrations around the city.

"On the whole, protesters behaved appropriately, except for the few who became disorderly and those who walked onto one of our highways -- an unacceptable and dangerous action that will always be met with a swift police response," he said.

No serious injuries were reported, according to state police.

Boston Police Comissioner William Evans said in a statement, "The restraint and professionalism exhibited by all my officers and our law enforcement partners during tonights peaceful demonstrations were exceptional."

He added, "I also want to acknowledge and thank the public for their patience and understanding with the necessary road closures and driving restrictions. These are done in the interest of keeping everyone safe and tonight we did just that. I truly appreciate your cooperation."

“When you frighten little children you’re not proving your point,” added Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

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