At a City Hall press conference today Mayor Walsh and Police Commissioner William Gross vowed not to let rioters repeat last night's performance in Boston and to keep Boston a safe haven for people to protest in.
They were joined by Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who, even as she decried the violence after dark, cautioned that the march during the day needs to be a wake-up call for white people, that after decades of oppression, black rage is real.
"I want to be clear: We are going to keep Boston safe," to be a place where people can protest peacefully, like the tens of thousands who protested peacefully yesterday, Walsh said.
Walsh said the marchers stood for "hundreds of thousands" of other Bostonians who are also "frightened and tired and also want change."
"We're not going to let some people let us lose sight of that," he said, adding his priority now is to keep Boston safe for protesters, "not worrying about having a brick thrown at somebody and hitting them in the head."
He added, "we are strong, we are a united city and we will not be defeated by this or any other challenges."
In response to a reporter's question about even allowing a protest march in the middle of a pandemic, Walsh said he is not going to fall into the Trump trap of using the pandemic to stomp on people's First Amendment rights. He said that workers from the Boston Public Health Commission were at the start of the march in Nubian Square yesterday, handing out face masks.
In response to another reporter's question, he said that no, he wasn't a failure. He allowed, however, that things got out of hand last night in a way nobody expected, that while every large protest seems to attract a few troublemakers, this one brought in way more. He said this is similar to what's happened in other cities in the US, and he said he plans to speak today with Black Lives Matter and Violence in Boston leaders about tomorrow's planned demonstration in Franklin Park - not about the demonstration itself, but about ways to prevent trouble from breaking out after the event ends.
Police Commissioner William Gross started by exclaiming his pride in the thousands of people who peacefully marched from Nubian Square to the Common in homage to Floyd and "decades of people dying at the hands of the executive branch of the United States," most recently in "murderous acts" in Minneapolis."
"Thank you to the community, oh, man, you really stepped up," he said.
But what happened downtown and in the Back Bay was no homage, he said. "Others came hellbent on destroying our city, our great city, our destination city."
"Yeah, it was rough out there for awhile last night," with people throwing rocks, bottles and fireworks at officers and trying to destroy cruisers when they weren't smashing windows and looting stores, he said. But he praised Boston cops, State Police, officers from other cities, firefighters who stood their ground and said "No one's going to take over our city and burn it to the ground."
Like Walsh, he vowed not to let it happen again. "The whole nation began here," he said, adding he is determined to turn Boston into a national example, "a shining example for all for our civil and human rights and our ability to express them."
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins began by saying she was exhausted, not by last night's events, but by the events that led to the initial march, in particular, cops across the country who "shoot us in the street as if we are animals."
Rollins said the 53 people arrested overnight will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible, that Boston Municipal Court has three separate sessions running today just to handle their arraignments and that she is saddened that any officers were hurt during the rampaging.
But she said white people need to realize that people in the black community are "fed up and exhausted" by years of oppression and that white people need to realize there was a "burning rage" behind the peaceful march.
"Buildings can be fixed," but murdered people are not coming back, she said. She noted the irony of black people having to tell whites last night please keep your voice down, please follow the directives of police, "those very people who murder us with impunity."
She added, "We have been saying this since Colin Kaepernick took a knee; you never listened to us. "