Report finds 93% of BLM protests peaceful, police disproportionately use force on protestors

Demonstrators in Boston protest Breonna Taylor decision

Protestors+gather+at+Boston+City+Hall+on+Sept.+25+to+call+for+prosecutors+to+file+charges+directly+related+to+the+death+of+Breonna+Taylor+against+the+officers+who+shot+and+killed+her+in+March.+

Courtesy of Reagan Petro

Protestors gather at Boston City Hall on Sept. 25 to call for prosecutors to file charges directly related to the death of Breonna Taylor against the officers who shot and killed her in March.

A recent report has found that 93% of Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations since May have been peaceful, and that police officers disproportionately used force at these events.

The report was written by the US Crisis Monitor, a joint project between the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) and Princeton University’s Bridging Divides Initiative.

“These data reveal that the United States is in crisis,” the report states. “It faces a multitude of concurrent, overlapping risks — from police abuse and racial injustice, to pandemic-related unrest and beyond — all exacerbated by increasing polarization.”

Between May 25, the day Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, a Black man, by kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 minutes, and Aug. 22, 7,750 demonstrations linked to BLM have been held across the country, according to ACLED.

On Friday, protestors in Boston marched in support of justice for Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in March after they served a no-knock warrant on her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment.

Protestors march past The Paramount in Downtown Crossing during a protest on Sept. 25 / Jeffrey Olson

The warrant was issued as part of a larger search for evidence of drug activity related to Taylor’s ex-boyfriend. No drugs were found in her apartment, and Taylor had no criminal history, according to USA Today.

Sept. 23 marked the first time charges had been brought against an officer involved in Taylor’s death, after a Kentucky Grand Jury investigation charged Louisville Police Officer Brett Hankinson with wanton endangerment for shots that hit a neighbor’s apartment.

Demonstrators marched from Nubian Square to Boston City Hall Friday, briefly stopping at the Boston Police Headquarters. Like many across the country, they called for the officers to face charges that were directly related to Taylor’s death.

While the protest remained peaceful, the presence of law enforcement was increased across the city Friday night. Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said in an email sent to Suffolk students on Friday morning that the police would be present at all protests in the city.

“For any instance where there is a planned demonstration, Boston will have extra patrols available, and will maintain a presence in all of our neighborhoods,” said Gross, “As we have seen nationally, peaceful demonstrations can quickly turn violent.”

In the email, Gross said to students who planned on attending protests that behavior warranting police intervention would be addressed by their respective schools and deans of students.

“As I have stated in the past, we are asking all participants of demonstrations to act in a way that would make your school, your family, and your city proud, and is respectful of our neighborhoods,” he continued. “Student behavior off campus will be regarded the same as if it were on campus.”

According to the report, while most BLM protests remained peaceful, police, as well as other government agencies, used force to disrupt protests in many cases.

“In demonstrations where authorities are present, they use force more often than not,” stated the report. “Data shows that they have disproportionately used force while intervening in demonstrations associated with the BLM movement, relative to other types of demonstrations.”

Prior to the Friday night protest, Boston Police could be seen deployed all around Downtown Crossing. Many were carrying wooden sticks and wearing riot gear, even before protestors arrived in the area.

Suffolk student Giovanni Biscaldi attended the protest and was surprised by the police presence.

“Many of them were relaxed but some were holding bats menacingly, and standing in aggressive stances almost trying to impose their dominance towards the protestors,” Biscaldi said. “Of course, police are present at every protest, but the amount of police in riot gear felt excessive in this instance.”

“It was crazy,” said a student, who wished to remain anonymous. “[The police] were everywhere, even hours before the protests started.”

Suffolk University President Marissa Kelly addressed the protests in an email to Suffolk students on Friday.

“As I have said on multiple occasions in recent months, we all must play an active role in addressing racism and inequality, and we must make our voices heard,” Kelly said. “I want to be clear that we support our community members’ right to peacefully protest and to be heard. It is a core Suffolk value, and something needed now more than ever.”

Along with additional police presence, Governor Charlie Baker activated the Massachusetts National Guard on Thursday, more than 24 hours before the protest began. The order said the purpose was to provide “emergency assistance for the preservation of life and property, preservation of order and to afford protection to persons.”

The report contradicts claims from critics of the Black Lives Matter movement who argue that the movement is inherently violent — claims that have also been promoted by President Donald Trump.

“Black Lives Matter leader states, ‘If U.S. doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it’. This is Treason, Sedition, Insurrection!” Trump tweeted back in June. The leader that is referenced in the tweet is not actually associated with the organization, according to a BLM spokesperson.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez countered statements against BLM, such as the one expressed by the president, in a May 30 post on her Instagram.

“If you want an end to unrest, work to end the conditions that create it,” Ocasio-Cortez said. 

Follow Will on Twitter @woodringwill.