Impact: My Reporting Helps a Lawsuit Against the Boston Police Department For Attacks On George Floyd Protesters
The lawsuit relies in part on my reporting of video footage of violence on the night of May 31, 2020
Hello everyone. I’m writing tonight to let you know about a big development from my reporting on the Boston Police Department’s attacks on protesters last summer.
Four demonstrators, led by Jasmine Huffman—who I profiled in April—are the plaintiffs in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Boston and three Boston police officers for their use of excessive force on the night of May 31, 2020.
You can read the full lawsuit here.
This lawsuit is huge. And your support of my work is a large part of why it happened.
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The complaint cites a number of incidents, including those caught on bodycam video which were made public thanks to my reporting at The Appeal in December. The victims, Huffman, Justin Ackers, Caitlyn Hall, and Ben Chambers-Maher, were each attacked by officers during the demonstration.
You can see the attacks on Huffman and Ackers in the video from my story:
The suit specifically calls out the “blue wall” that police rely on to stay out of trouble:
On May 14, 2021, Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey acknowledged that a “blue wall” of silence existed in the Boston Police Department, which prevented police officers from reporting misconduct by fellow officers. This policy or custom existed in the early 1990s and continued into 2021. Acting Mayor Janey said, “officers were intimidated into silence for fear of retaliation” during an investigation in 2021.
Because of this “blue wall” police officers in Boston felt free to use
unreasonable and excessive force on protesters because they expected fellow officers would not report any misconduct and they knew that the police department would accept the word of a police officer over the word of a civilian.
Despite the abuses documented in my reporting, Boston city officials—including then-Mayor and now-Labor Secretary Marty Walsh—did not take any action to substantively restrict BPD's use of force.
In February, I published a follow up story with footage from Boston on May 29, 2020 and in nearby Worcester on June 1, 2020. The videos showed a familiar scene: police beating demonstrators with abandon.
Since then, I've been following the story at The Flashpoint.
In April, I revealed that Sgt. Clifton McHale, who bragged about running protesters down with his vehicle, was back on desk duty. You can see the “blue wall” in action in the clip of his comments:
I also talked to Huffman about her struggles with the BPD to get them to take her complaint seriously. Instead, detectives tried to get Huffman to incriminate herself and other protesters.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
A lot to come this week, from the intersection of housing and the service industry to a former soldier in the IDF speaking out about her experiences.
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