Newly published body camera footage captured by Boston police shows how officers were aggressive toward protesters as they seemingly took joy in pushing, hitting, and pepper-spraying demonstrators. One officer was even caught on camera appearing to brag about how he had hit protesters with his car. The footage, provided to the The Appeal shows how officers repeatedly responded violently to protesters who were demonstrating against police brutality and racial injustice on May 31 in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
The videos, which were provided to the online news outlet by Carl Williams, a lawyer representing some of the protesters who were arrested, show officers who pushed nonviolent protesters to the ground apparently without provocation. At one point an officer hit a woman to the ground who had her hands up. Other videos show how the officers pepper-sprayed protesters indiscriminately with little, if any warning. “It’s this mob mentality,” Williams told The Appeal. “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.”
Throughout the videos, officers seem to be taking pleasure in violently attacking protesters. In one clip, a sergeant approaches an officer who is wearing a bodycam. “Dude, dude, dude, I fuckin’ drove down Tremont—there was an unmarked state police cruiser they were all gathered around,” the sergeant said with a laugh. “I’m fucking hitting people with the car, did you hear me, I was like, ‘get the fuck…” That’s when the officer wearing the camera pushes the sergeant’s head away and leaves, when he gets back he yells “it’s on,” referring to the bodycam. That’s when the sergeant quickly tried to talk his way out of what he just said. “I didn’t hit anybody, like, just driving, that’s all,” he said.
Some of the videos also seem to show officers enjoying pepper-spraying protesters. “Start spraying the fuckers,” an officer can be heard saying in a video. In another video one officer says. “I want to hit this asshole” as he gestured toward the crowd. “I want to hit this kid.”
The protests that took place on May 31 were largely peaceful until night fell. Police arrested 53 people and 18 bystanders were hospitalized while nine officers were treated for injuries that night.
Police Commissioner William Gross said he ordered an internal investigation after watching the videos. “I have placed a sergeant involved in this incident on administrative leave and I will take any additional action as necessary at the conclusion of the investigation,” Gross said. “I want to encourage people to bring these matters to our attention so that we can investigate them appropriately.” Mayor Marty Walsh said the footage “is difficult to watch, and begs answers to many questions” that he expects will be answered by the internal investigation. “We never want to see police officers using more force than necessary, even when tensions are high,” Walsh said. “These types of situations are also exactly why we are implementing body worn cameras for all police officers.”