Roughly 100 protesters gathered outside of Cambridge City Hall on Monday for the latest demonstration in a monthslong series of protests following the killing of 20-year-old Sayed Faisal by a Cambridge Police Department officer.
At the rally, protesters reiterated their demands for the officers involved in the shooting to be named, terminated, and criminally charged and for the city to release the full unredacted police report. City officials will release the names of the officers involved and the police report following the completion of an investigation by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.
Faisal, a Bangladeshi American student at the University of Massachusetts Boston, was fatally shot by a CPD officer on Jan. 4 after officers responded to a 911 report of a man harming himself, according to a CPD press release. Police officials have maintained that Faisal approached officers wielding a knife following a five-block chase, and when a non-lethal sponge round failed to stop him, an officer shot and killed him.
The police killing of Faisal has sparked allegations of police brutality and racism, condemnation of city officials for their handling of the situation, and more than a dozen protests in the months since, including in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In the wake of the killing, city officials have pledged to implement police reforms including equipping CPD officers with body cameras and increasing funding for non-police public safety alternatives.
“We’ve been out here on the streets day after day, week after week, month after month,” said Susanna Chen, a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Harvard junior Afiya Rahman ’24 called on Harvard students to be more involved in the protests against Faisal’s killing.
“It’s embarrassing that as Harvard students, a ten-minute walk away to City Hall is too much of a barrier for you all to be here,” said Rahman, a Crimson Editorial editor. “Faisal was 20, and it’s so disappointing to see students not show up and support someone from their community.”
Some protesters also criticized the city’s recent decision to hire the Police Executive Research Forum, a policing think tank, to conduct an independent external review of the department following Faisal’s killing.
Party for Socialism and Liberation organizer Matthew Kennedy questioned the independence of the investigation due to the involvement of current and former police officers in the organization.
“Their president, their vice president, their treasurer, and their secretary are all cops,” Kennedy said as protesters booed. “These are people who have gone through decades of absorbing police propaganda uncritically.”
Police Executive Research Forum Executive Director Chuck Wexler said in a phone call with The Crimson that while there are police chiefs on the organization’s board, the think tank operates independently of police departments and aims to improve policing practices.
CPD spokesperson Jeremy C. Warnick wrote in an email that the external review will include input from both police and non-police consultants from the think tank.
Many speakers at the protest questioned the need for police, with some residents sharing their personal experiences with policing in Cambridge and across the country.
“My brother Thomas Purdy was 38 years old. He was a resident of Massachusetts when he took a vacation to Reno, Nevada. He never made it home alive,” resident AnneMarie Grant said. “It keeps me up every night of my life.”
Cambridge officials have agreed to meet representatives from the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Boston-area students Tuesday to discuss the activists’ concerns, the group’s representatives said during the protest. Another rally is set to occur on the steps outside City Hall as the meeting takes place.
“The city has given us a meeting, and we want to be respectful and engage in good faith dialogue,” Chen said. “But we also know that it’s not in their interest to listen to our demands. It’s only now that they’re giving us a meeting because they have seen the power of our movement.”