Dozens of protesters rallied in Harvard Square Sunday to renew calls for increased transparency from Cambridge officials on the January police killing of 20-year-old Sayed Faisal by a Cambridge Police Department officer.
The rally — organized by the Boston Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Bangladesh Association of New England, and other local advocacy groups — marked the latest in a series of more than a dozen public demonstrations in response to Faisal’s death.
“2023 is almost over, and what has the city given us? Nothing!” said Party for Socialism and Liberation organizer Susanna Chen, prompting boos from the crowd. “We’ve had protests. We’ve had marches. We’ve had pickets. We’ve had a petition with over 1,000 signatures.”
“Why has there been no justice?” she added.
Faisal, a Bangladeshi American student at the University of Massachusetts Boston, was fatally shot by a CPD officer on Jan. 4 after police responded to a 911 call reporting that a man had jumped through a window and was harming himself, according to a CPD press release.
After police pursued him through Cambridgeport, Faisal allegedly moved toward officers wielding a knife, and when a sponge round failed to stop him, an officer fatally shot him.
Faisal’s death is currently under investigation by Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan. Ryan’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the inquiry’s status.
At the rally, speakers condemned city officials for not releasing the names of the officers involved in Faisal’s death.
“It has been over eight months and still the names of Faisal’s killers have not been released,” said MIT student and Party for Socialism and Liberation organizer Aliyah Chutkan. “Releasing the names of the officers involved in the shooting and all relevant facts within days of the incident has become a common practice in cities across America. So why have they still not been released here?”
City officials have maintained that they will release the names of the officers involved following the completion of the district attorney’s investigation. A July report from the Police Executive Research Forum — a national police think tank hired by the city to conduct an external review of the police department — concluded that the identity of the officer who shot Faisal could have been “legally and ethically” released in the weeks after the shooting.
“The police are not here to protect us,” Chutkan said. “To protect and serve is a fun motto but the police are not legally required to protect us. They are not here for us.”
In June, the judge overseeing the investigation of Faisal’s case released an order preventing city officials from releasing new information on the shooting until the completion of the investigation.
Party for Socialism and Liberation organizer Tahmid Rahman referenced the PERF report as evidence that the city should have released the names.
“CPD’s hands were conveniently tied,” Rahman said. “So here we are in September, continuing to demand justice.”
At an August Cambridge City Council meeting, CPD Commissioner Christine A. Elow said that the department is working to develop a policy for critical incidents, which would release preliminary information including the involved officers, “as soon as possible.”
“We understand, again, the priority in the city. This is a priority for us in the police department, and we’re going to be moving forward as fast as possible,” Elow said.
City Council candidate Ayah Al-Zubi ’23, who attended the protest, said Faisal’s death struck a personal chord for her due to her past advocacy efforts.
“As someone who continuously advocates for Muslims and immigrants, we have to sit down and come into conversation together and uphold that pressure,” Al-Zubi said.
“Right now, there aren’t enough people on the City Council who want to seek that justice for Faisal,” she added.
Bangladesh Association of New England President Pervin A. Chowdhury told attendees that the movement is not just about Faisal.
“Faisal was our kid, your kid — it can happen to any one of you,” Chowdhury said. “It cannot bring Faisal back, but it can save some other Faisal."
At the conclusion of the rally, organizer Matthew Kennedy said that the demonstrations will continue until the officers involved are named and held accountable.
“We’re not going to stop until they’re arrested. We’re not going to stop until we know for sure that those killer cops never get to have a badge and a gun ever again,” he said. “We’re not going to stop until we get justice for Faisal.”