By Alex Eng, news staff
TRIGGER WARNING: This story mentions police violence.
A vigil and protest march were held Wednesday in honor of Terrence Coleman, a South End resident who was fatally shot by Boston Police Department (BPD) officers Sunday.
The event was hosted by Mass Action Against Police Brutality (MAAPB) at Peter’s Park in the South End, just a few blocks from where Coleman was shot after an altercation with responding EMTs and police officers on Shawmut Avenue.
“Terrence Coleman did not have to die on Sunday morning,” said Brock Satter, a spokesperson from MAAPB. “There’s been no indictments, no convictions and the killing is going to continue. There has to be public opposition to what’s been going on.”
Coleman, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, had spent nearly two days sitting on the stoop outside his residence. Concerned about his potential to develop pneumonia, Coleman’s mother, Hope, called for help.
Two EMTs arrived at the Coleman residence accompanied by two BPD officers. The encounter became violent as Coleman was being escorted outside, and Coleman was fatally shot, according to an Oct. 30 Boston Globe report.
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans stated that Terrence Coleman was armed with a knife and attacked the EMTs, which led to the shooting. However, Hope Coleman, who claims she watched the incident happen, denied the presence of a knife.
“A lot of people still don’t know what happened, and a lot of people definitely don’t know Hope Coleman’s side of the story,” Satter said during the vigil to approximately 80 attendees. “[Police officers] have a way of subduing you, even if you have a knife. […] It doesn’t matter why those police were there. They shouldn’t have done what they did when they were there.”
Standing in solidarity with the Coleman family, speakers at the event expressed outrage and frustration at an apparent pattern of police brutality against African-American and low-income people in recent years.
“When it comes to black men and women in our communities, there’s no options but death,” said Minister Rodney Muhammad, a Muslim practitioner based in Philadelphia. “We need to follow this investigation and make sure we go to the end so the family can get justice.”
MAAPB activist and South End Resident Aymma Warfield spoke of implicit biases regarding African-Americans and people with mental illnesses.
“We need to acknowledge that this is not only a problem of police against blacks but also a problem of police against mental health,” Warfield said. “The assumption […] is that he’s going to be violent.”
Afterward, attendees took to the streets with chants of “we believe in Hope” and “cops lie, keep Hope alive.”
Activists from MAAPB and local residents marched on Washington Street and through the neighborhood, raising awareness of what they believed to be an unjust murder.
MAAPB members demanded that the two police officers involved be identified and placed under arrest.
They also called for the resignation of BPD Commissioner Evans, alleging that he covered up the facts of the shooting and demanded that the Coleman family be compensated for funeral expenses.
The BPD did not respond to request for comment as of press time.
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office will conduct an independent investigation on the shooting and release the entire investigative file upon conclusion.
As the investigation continues, the Coleman family and MAAPB continue to mourn the loss of Terrence Coleman and hope that public pressure on BPD will bring more information to light.
The evening ultimately highlighted the need for community healing as the Coleman family encircled and comforted a weeping Hope Coleman.
After activists distributed candles alongside picket signs and flyers, Terrence Coleman’s uncle Al took the microphone and spoke painfully through tears.
“Just seeing what my family is going through […] that’s traumatic,” he said. “They’re going to be battling with that all their lives.”
Photo by Alex Melagrano