|Baker: President's Remarks 'Incendiary,' Calls for Compassionate Leadership|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
05:08PM / Monday, June 01, 2020
BOSTON — The governor on Monday rejected the president's calls for "dominating and fighting" protestors who have engaged in violent acts, including burning and looting in downtown Boston on Sunday night.
"I know I should be surprised when I hear incendiary words like this from him, but I'm not. At so many times during these past several weeks, when the country needed compassionate leadership the most. It was simply nowhere to be found," Gov. Charlie Baker said about comments the president made during a phone call with governors on Monday morning. "Instead, we got bitterness combativeness and self-interest.
"That's not what we need in Boston. It's not what we need right now in Massachusetts. And it's definitely not what we need, across this great country of ours, either."
There have been peaceful — and not so peaceful — protests and demonstrations across the country in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police. Floyd is the most recent in a long list of people of color who have been killed in encounters with police or vigilantes. Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was accosted and shot while jogging in February and Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot to death in March when police executed a "no-knock" warrant of dubious provenance.
The governor said Floyd's murder was an injustice experienced at the hands of a public institution that was supposed to be rooting it out. Against a background decades of discrimination, he said, "It all adds up, the slights and the injustices, big or small, day after day, month after month, year after year.
"The cumulative effect of these moments, whether they're caught on camera or not, they add up to the people who are involved. The cumulative impact is countless and terrible. It can rob somebody of hope, destroy a sense of personal safety. And, over time, it can incite anger."
Baker said it wasn't clear who was acting out of anger on Sunday night when dozens of businesses large and small were vandalized and looted, stretching from Copley Plaza through Downtown Crossing to Post Office Square. More than 20 police vehicles were damaged, 18 bystanders taken to the hospital and reportedly dozens of police officers treated at the scene. Fifty-three people have been charged so far, about half from outside the city.
The National Guard was brought in on Sunday night, which Baker said was a joint decision with Mayor Marty Walsh, and remains in the city. He noted that the Guard was activated in March to help deal with the pandemic. Baker also said his and the mayor's administration have been speaking with local elected officials and members of the African-American and Latino community about public safety to enhance accountability and transparency.
The governor noted that people had been demonstrating outside the State House last week over their frustration with the slow pace of the reopening, and that several protests had been going on peacefully all day Sunday.
"Ultimately the behavior of the people who are involved in all those marches and all those demonstrations were clearly different than the moods of the people engaged in the bottle throwing and all the rest," he said. "I don't know where they were from but they were definitely not like the thousands and thousands of people who were there for a very different purpose."
Calling Floyd's murder one of countless horrible tragedies that have befallen people of color, Baker also put it in the context of the novel coronavirus pandemic that has "swept across the globe."
"People everywhere have gone through awful, terrible moments. The loss of life connection, purpose, income, routine. It has all pushed many far beyond what we're used to dealing with," he said. "As we combat the pandemic, we remain in struggle with how to carry out the bedrock principles of democracy, with the best medical guidance available to fight an infectious contagious disease. By and large, the people in Massachusetts have made it work, we're balancing the fight against the virus, with the fight for what we as individuals, all believe in. But it's hard, and it's not over."
The governor said the public "rightly expects" its leaders to be able to admit to flaws, seek better answers and make things happen.
"I think America is at its greatest and at its best when its leaders promote the notion that we all have a stake in everybody else's success," he said. "Frankly, we do."