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?I want to hit this kid?: Newly unearthed body cam footage shines light on Boston police during racial justice protests

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©2020 Boston Globe Media Partners, LLCNewly unearthed body camera footage captured by Boston police during the demonstrations protesting racial injustice and police brutality in May shows officers using force against nonviolent protesters, pepper-spraying crowds, and, in one instance, speaking about hitting protesters with a car.The clips are at the center of a report published Friday by The Appeal, a national online news and commentary website that focuses on how the legal system, policies, and politics affect the country’s most vulnerable populations.The footage was an exclusive for the outlet, which says it was given the videos by Carl Williams, an attorney representing some of the protesters who were arrested during the protests overnight between May 31 and early on June 1. Williams received 44 videos — over 66 hours of body camera footage — as part of a discovery file, according to the publication.The demonstrations — an outcry after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis — in downtown Boston that day were largely peaceful until later that night, when the situation grew aggressive with cases of looting and vandalism reported. In all, 53 people were arrested by police, 18 bystanders were hospitalized, and nine officers were treated for nonlife-threatening injuries.Police Commissioner William Gross, the following day, remarked that some protesters “came hellbent on destroying our city.” He praised officers who “said, ‘No one is going to take over our city and burn it to the ground.'”The videos published Friday show officers pushing nonviolent demonstrators to the ground apparently unprovoked, spraying pepper spray on individuals and into crowds to force them back, and one department member explaining how he possibly hit people with a car on Tremont Street.In that instance, the officer whose camera is recording the remarks walks away so his colleague is no longer in frame and says, “This thing is on!”“It’s this mob mentality,” Williams told The Appeal regarding the police behavior. “And I use ‘mob’ as a sort of a double entendre—mob like the mafia and mob like a group of a pack of wild people roaming the streets looking to attack people.”Several local officials and advocates have raised questions about and condemned the actions depicted on video, including Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins.“I have not watched the entire video, but the snippets that I have seen are incredibly troubling,” Rollins told the outlet.She said the clips have been shared with her team of special prosecutors.Boston Police Sgt. Det. John Boyle told Friday the department has opened an internal affairs investigation on “what the report brought to our attention” but could not provide additional comment because of the ongoing probe.Update: Late Friday night, Gross, the Boston police commissioner, issued the following statement: “As soon as these videos were brought to my attention, I immediately ordered my Bureau of Professional Standards to open and conduct a thorough and fair investigation into this matter, and the totality of circumstances involved. I want to encourage people to bring these matters to our attention so that we can investigate them appropriately.”Here are a few key clips and what local leaders are saying about them:Video contains graphic language.In one clip, a police sergeant approaches an officer whose camera is rolling in Downtown Crossing.“Dude, I f***ing drove down Tremont (Street). And I want to be proud of the behavior that we see with law enforcement moving forward.”Video contains graphic language and images of violence.Several videos show police unleashing cans of pepper spray on crowds and people at close range. Warnings to individuals beforehand, if any were made by police, are not included in the video compilation.In one incident, a man walking towards officers with his hands up is sprayed in the face.“Start spraying the f***ers,” an officer is heard saying in another video recorded near Boston Common.In a third clip, after officers formed a line to try to push demonstrators down Washington Street, one officer is heard saying, “(You) gotta start spraying more.”Moments later, he says, “I want to hit this a**hole,” gesturing to someone in the crowd. “….I want to hit this kid.”Video contains violence.Some moments caught on the body cameras show officers knocking nonviolent demonstrators over with batons.“Move!,” says one officer as he hits a woman, who had her hands up, to the ground and then steps over her on Boston Common around 2:44 a.m. on June 1.In another clip, a person starts a moped scooter and appears to head in the same direction as retreating crowds before an officer shoves the driver off the vehicle.As The Appeal notes, some demonstrators were targeted for using violence, such as when one kicked a tear gas canister back toward authorities near the Common.“Let’s get this f***er. “Lock him up.”District Attorney Rachel Rollins In a statement to Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for Rollins’s office said: “The office is aware of the videos and is investigating them further. We remain optimistic that through the reforms we are instituting, such as the Internal Affairs Oversight Panel for the Boston Police Department and in our review of the Office of Police Accountability language, that we will bring to life the reforms we know are needed.”City Councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea CampbellIn a statement Friday, Campbell pointed to the videos as more reasons for why Walsh should immediately sign three police reform measures sent to his desk by the City Council this week.Campbell and fellow councilors Ricardo Arroyo and Julia Mejia collaborated with Walsh’s administration over the past month on an ordinance that, if enacted, would create the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, which would have subpoena power to investigate alleged cases of police misconduct.Campbell and Arroyo were also behind a second of those three proposals, one that would restrict how police can use equipment such as tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets. “As a Black woman and someone who has listened to constituents detail their traumatic interactions with police, I didn’t need to see George Floyd’s murder or this footage to realize that our police department needed to create stronger systems of accountability and transparency.”City Councilor Ricardo ArroyoArroyo also pointed to the need to pass the reform measures, especially in light of the body camera videos.“This footage, and all of the footage in this article, is why Mayor Walsh needs to sign the ordinances before him,” Arroyo wrote in a tweet. The Boston Democrat issued a statement to the outlet:“The inexcusable actions of officers in these disturbing videos make painfully clear why our communities are standing up, speaking out and demanding decisive action to combat the public health crisis that is police brutality in our nation. We can and must advance bold and systemic policy change at all levels of government to bring an end to the toxic culture of police impunity that has fueled these abuses and begin to legislate true justice and healing for our communities.”The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts The ACLU of Massachusetts, which was also quoted in The Appeal report, has been trying to get ahold of information about Boston police practices and communications with federal law enforcement under public records laws for the past two years.In August, the organization filed a lawsuit against the department and City of Boston demanding the release of several records, including “requests regarding the BPD’s use of force during recent racial justice demonstrations in Boston,” the ACLU says.In a statement to, Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts said:“Contrary to the claims by police unions and other opponents of meaningful reform, Massachusetts is not immune to police misconduct and police violence—including against Black and brown people.

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