BOSTON — Protesters poured fake blood at Faneuil Hall on Tuesday as they renewed calls to rename the historic Boston meeting house that’s considered the Cradle of Liberty but named after a slave trader.
Residents and young community activists, meanwhile, demanded that city leaders slash the police department budget as part of a growing movement to “defund” law enforcement agencies.
A small group of faith and community leaders rallied at City Hall, chanting “change the name” and “black lives matter.” A few then crossed the street and poured fake blood in front of Faneuil Hall, where Samuel Adams and other prominent Bostonians debated independence from Britain.
“We are spilling blood here at Faneuil Hall because it is at this place that slaves were sold into a life of bondage,” said Kevin Peterson, founder of the New Democracy Coalition. “This building is a symbol of white supremacy. We can move toward racial repair in Boston if we rid ourselves of the ugly icons which include Faneuil Hall.”
Peterson’s coalition has for years called for the hall to be renamed in honor of Crispus Attucks, a man of African and Native American descent who is considered the first casualty of the American Revolution. His body lay in state in Faneuil Hall after he was shot by a British soldier in the Boston Massacre of 1770.
Attucks has also become something of a rallying figure during nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd and other black Americans at the hands of police. The meeting hall and its marketplace were built in 1742 with financing from merchant Peter Faneuil, who owned and traded slaves.
Residents and community groups testifying at a Boston City Council budget meeting Tuesday called for cutting police department funding.
The council should consider trimming the department’s budget by about 10 percent, roughly $40 million, they said. They suggested cutting overtime costs, phasing out officers at public schools, eliminating military-style training, exercises and weapons, and other money-saving measures.
The activists suggested the city instead invest in youth services, including job programs, violence prevention efforts and mental health counselors and other wellness supports in the public school system.
The youth group For the People has said it will hold a march from the historically black Roxbury neighborhood to City Hall on Wednesday to continue the call for the budget changes and other police reforms.
“These are not the entirety of our community’s demands or of our movement’s demands, but they do represent bare minimum steps that can be taken right now through a democratic process that honors both what this moment and the future of Boston is calling for,” said Stephen Lafume, a 21-year-old Boston resident.
Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh has said he’ll propose reallocating some of the police department budget, but has so far not released any details.
Council members have also called on him to make good on his pledge to make Boston a national leader in combating racism after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25.
Councilor Michelle Wu has said that an independent civilian review board should investigate police misconduct, that the department’s body camera policy should be strengthened, and that agencies should be banned from using face recognition surveillance technology.
Councilor Andrea Campbell has said Walsh should commit to reviewing and changing the police department’s use-of-force policy within 60 days.
Watch: Hundreds protest George Floyd’s death outside police department