A Black activist group is accusing city and state officials of ignoring coronavirus-related complaints about a huge multi-day party in Dorchester, saying that Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin Walsh aren’t protecting minority communities already hit hard by the virus.
The Boston Black COVID-19 Coalition held a virtual press conference on Thursday about the parties on Friday and Saturday night along Talbot Avenue that they estimated drew thousands of people in what coalition member Dianne Wilkerson said she suspected would be a “super-spreader” event in minority-heavy neighborhoods in Boston.
“This whole episode has been a massive failure of leadership across the board,” said Wilkerson.
Priscilla Flint-Banks, another member of the coalition, said her mother died of COVID-19. She choked up as she urged more action to keep Bostonians safe as the disease hits minority communities particularly hard.
“I’m tired of burying my family,” she said.
Wilkerson, a former state senator who remains influential in Boston despite getting pinched by the feds on public corruption charges in the late 2000s, slammed Baker for being less affected by this about this than he seemed to be about a couple of reported parties that he said endangered people in much whiter areas like the South Shore and Cape Cod.
“One hundred white people shake him up but 2,000 Black people don’t?” Wilkerson asked rhetorically.
Boston cops and state police both responded, the governor said when asked at a press conference about the parties. Rather than hand out citations and arrests, Baker said police instead engaged with partygoers and “peacefully” broke up the gathering — which “took a while.”
“With all of the tension that’s all there these days that exists between law enforcement and people generally — they handled it exactly the way you would want them to,” Baker insisted.
Videos from the block party — which Wilkerson said involved DJs on the streets and people eating, drinking and smoking pot — show packed streets.
Walsh’s office said the police department was aware of “the activities” on Talbot Avenue, and that the BPD sent officers to “ensure public safety.” Walsh’s office said the cops did implement some traffic restrictions in an effort to cut down on the size of gatherings, but didn’t arrest anybody. The city said health workers handed out personal protective equipment at the parties.
“To all those who are throwing parties in our city: stop putting residents’ health and lives at risk,” Walsh said in a statement Thursday.