On Wednesday, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, who praised “Black Lives Matter” protesters in January after they blocked Interstate 93 during the morning rush hour, forcing an Easton ambulance transporting an elderly car crash victim to reroute to a lower-level hospital, doubled down on his support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, hanging their 12 x 4 banner in front of City Hall.
Curtatone boasted that he cooperated with Black Lives Matter Cambridge to create the banner, saying, “We see this as an important opportunity for an important national conversation” about race. He added that hanging the banner was “a very clear statement we are making to the community that we recognize that structural racism exists in our society; it exists in our public and private institutions,” according to The Boston Globe.
Curtatone pledged to keep the banner up “as long as it has to” in order to show Somerville cares about the relationship between government agencies and people in the community. He argued that Somerville was not exempt from responsibility for relationships with blacks, stating, “Racism exists everywhere.”
Of course, Curtatone said that he was not ripping his own police department, positing that the banner was a “statement of faith” in the department. He pointed out that the police chief supported his position.
Stephanie Guirand, lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Cambridge, was pleased, asserting, “He said all the things we wanted to hear about being on the right side of history.”
At Somerville’s annual Martin Luther King event on January 19, Curtatone said of the protesters who blocked I-93 four days before:
When protesters want to come to our city because they feel the ideals of this country are being lost, we need to stand up and declare that’s what they should be doing and be allowed to do. We should be celebrating that. We shouldn’t be saying I’m having a hard to time getting to work in the morning, I can’t get to my dinner reservation, I had to sit in traffic for almost 20 minutes.
He added, “It’s the time to call out each other, it’s the time to call out your elected officials and that’s the demand that we stand for what is right, even if it doesn’t happen in Somerville or Boston.”
The January protesters chained themselves to barrels to block every lane of traffic on I-93, prompting legislators to file legislation punishing protesters who block public roads. State Rep. Colleen Garry proffered a bill that would bring manslaughter and murder charges against a protester who blocks a public road and causes death. State Rep. Timothy Whelan, R-Brewster, a former state trooper, filed legislation that would sentence a protester who blocked the road to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Whelan, who stated that diversion of ambulances is “appalling,” added, “As a former State Trooper who patrolled the highways of the commonwealth for decades, the safety of the motoring public is of dear importance to me. The irresponsible acts of individuals today on Route 93 not only caused many thousands of our citizens to be inconvenienced, it also caused a drain on public resources at great monetary expense to the public.”