BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com/AP) - Activists protesting what they call "police and state violence against black people" chained themselves to concrete-filled barrels and blocked a busy Boston area highway in two places at the height of the Thursday morning commute.
Several of the protesters were found to be wearing adult diapers. "Their plan, obviously, was to stay on the highway for a long time," police director of media relations David Procopio said. While the protest ruined the morning commute, it was over in less than three hours, which is not enough time to worry about a potty break.
Over the next three hours police moved in and painstakingly removed people one-by-one from what would have been a busy artery at both ends of the city of Boston. The group chained together with plastic piping were removed from the freeway within an hour.
It took until nearly 10 a.m. before both protest locations were cleared. Massachusetts State Police weren't able to open all lanes of I-93 until after the morning commute time had passed. The slow down and shut down impacted downs of thousands of people who could not get to work or morning appointments. State police commander Col. Timothy Alben said 18 people were arrested at the Medford incident and another 11 people were arrested in the Milton incident. All of them were arraigned later Thursday. They face trespassing and resisting arrest charges, according to Alben. "They caused serious risk to public safety," Alben said. He said traffic was so bad that state troopers responding to the scenes had trouble making their way through the jam.
At least one of the protesters said the inconvenience was the point of the protest. "I think the inconvenience is a first world problem compared to the risk of life or death faced just by being black person," Shannon Leary said.Alben said while he understands and respects First Amendment rights, he called the protests "immature, irresponsible and reckless." He said the Easton Fire Department had to divert a Level One trauma patient because of the protest. The victim had been involved in an unrelated car crash and could not get to the first choice emergency room at Boston City Hospital and instead had to go to a Brockton hospital, Alben said. The victim survived.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said the protests put the public, emergency personnel, and the demonstrators themselves in danger.
"There are ways to demonstrate in a peaceful manner," Walsh said.
An ambulance transporting a patient with serious injuries after a car crash in Easton, south of the city, to Boston City Hospital had to be diverted to a Brockton hospital, Alben said. The victim survived.
Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement issued by a spokeswoman that "endangering drivers and impeding access to medical facilities" was not the best way to protest.
The protests seemed to frustrate and anger drivers.
"All they do when they do something like this is alienate people to their cause," Philip Wood of Rockland told The Boston Globe. He owns a construction company and was waiting for a cement truck to arrive at a work site.
Police needed power saws to free some people who had chained themselves to the barrels. At one point police and firefighters from Milton covered a protester in a fire protective blanket as they used a power saw, hammer and chisel to get him free from the concrete barrel. One of the power saws threw sparks on another protester who screamed out in pain.
The Boston contingent of Black Lives Matter said in a statement that the protest was intended "to confront white complacency in the systemic oppression of black people in Boston."
"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," protester Katie Seitz said in a statement.
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.
The Boston protesters released a list of more than a dozen minorities they say have been killed by law enforcement in the city in the last 15 years.
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