by Henry Blanchette, Freelance Writer
photo courtesy of Valerie Goldstein
“Take it to the streets and defund the police. No justice, no peace!” senior Jada Pierre chanted while marching from Boyden Park to Newton City Hall as part of a June protest to defund the Newton Police Department (NPD).
Dressed in all black and carrying a ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign, Pierre was one of hundreds in the crowd. The protest was organized by Greater Boston Teens Against Systemic Racism (GBTASR), a group formed by Pierre and fellow seniors Oliver Ciric, Daniel Glickman, Dale LaVelle, Nick Mahoney, Jayla Reilly and Hedi Skali. GBTASR’s protest to defund the NPD was the group’s first organized event.
Pierre said that GBTASR is determined to combat racial injustices in Greater Boston, and advocating to defund the NPD was one way of achieving their objective.
Glickman said that they created the group to make imperative changes to local policy.
“We were really affected by the murder of George Floyd,” he said. “We thought it was necessary to highlight that these issues aren’t just in other cities in the U.S. They’re in the suburbs, too. They’re in Greater Boston.”
LaVelle said the goal of the protest was to encourage the reallocation of NPD funds to other departments, a theme chosen after the group reviewed Newton’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget.
“We noticed that most departments were getting funding cuts due to the coronavirus, yet the police department was getting an increased budget of approximately $157,000,” he said.
“We thought that was ludicrous,” Glickman added. “It was giving the police a prize for lackluster work.”
Drawing over 300 attendees, Ciric said the June protest had a high turnout because it targeted a relevant topic within the community.
Several months later, GBTASR coordinated with Defund NPD, a group dedicated to recognizing racism within the police department and encouraging the reallocation of police funding to other services. The two groups led an Aug. 23 protest advocating for more affordable housing in Newton.
“We wanted to run a protest on affordable housing in Newton because being able to live in a community opens up access so much for certain individuals,” LaVelle said. “That bridges the gap between lower income families into having these resources present in Newton.”
Senior and Defund NPD member Valerie Goldstein said she was impressed by GBTASR and was proud that the two groups led a successful affordable housing protest together.
“They had a really successful defund NPD protest,” she said. “I knew they were reliable, hard-working people, and I’m really pleased that we got to work with them because they really helped make this whole thing come together.”
Ciric said he was motivated by both protests and their turnouts.
“You can get people involved and rally behind an issue as long as you have a clear goal and a voice,” he said. “It’s awe-striking, the fact that protesting is something that you can create.”
Pierre said that moving forward, students should recognize the injustices within Newton and take action to combat them.
“We are in desperate need of some kind of reform, and that can only happen with action, not just words,” she said. “Being vocal can only do so much.”
Glickman said that GBTASR will continue to promote advocacy in the future.
“Whatever needs to be done, we’ll try and lend a hand,” he said. “We just want to support and amplify voices, so that’s what we’re going to do.