BOSTON (CBS) — The nation is mourning and protesting is an appropriate response, President of the NAACP Boston branch Tanisha Sullivan tells WBZ-TV after a week of national unrest in response to the death of George Floyd.

“Certainly, we do not condone violence as an organization. I do not condone violence as an individual,” Sullivan said, but the right to protest is “one of the cornerstones of our democracy. It is what makes America stand out in comparison to some other countries around the world where protests and demonstration is not allowed. It is important to remember that that is part of our democracy,” Sullivan said.

“I think its important to remember how we got here and why we are here,” she said “It is important for us to understand where the violence, where the rage is coming from. It is the result of generations of a knee on the neck… that knee really is symbolic for so many of us in the black community and so many of us who have been in the civil rights movement for decades in that we’ve been fighting against knees on the neck in our education system, in our public health system, in our criminal justice system, in our economic system for so very long.”

“George Floyd’s murder really is, in so many ways, emblematic of what is happening across cities in this nation every day.”

Sullivan said the protests ask the question of how we get to justice at this moment.

“Justice is more than the charging and convicting of the Minneapolis four. Justice is reflected in our policy on the ground,” she said.

“Here locally in the city of Boston what we are going to be advocating [is] for a civilian review board with subpoena power. We are going to be advocating for increased funding in our schools and in our neighborhoods for restorative justice, practices to be implemented systemically so that we can help to reduce the need for police in our communities and instead work in partnership with law enforcement to bring about greater peace. It’s important for us also to keep in mind that what we saw in Minneapolis and what we saw in Georgia are examples of why leadership matters.”

She said in both places, district attorneys have waited to press charges or have not pressed charges fully in significant cases.

“As we’re looking at policies, like the use of excessive force, we need to be looking at those policies again to help ensure that we are eliminating from those policies practices that really are not meant to keep the peace but are meant to bring about death of individuals who are subjected to them.”

Questions like whether Floyd’s knee to the neck was justifiable or whether the officers can be held accountable speaks to a broken system, according to Sullivan. “None of us who believe in humanity, none of us who believe in justice can believe for a moment that that is a type of death that someone should have to endure.”

She said the NAACP is working with the legislature and the police department “here in the city of Boston so that we can help to prevent the type of murder that we saw in Minneapolis and in Louisville, Kentucky, and in Georgia.”

Before the protests on Sunday, there were several conversations about “what the presence of our law enforcement officers would look like during these protests” to balance the need for safety and “understanding that the presence of police officers, of law enforcement in this moment can be triggering for many people,” Sullivan said.

She appreciated that the police presence was not “overbearing” throughout the day and that police acted with the NAACP’s “concerns in mind.”

“We do appreciate the de-escalation that we saw. We do appreciate the restraint that we saw. We also understand that there were some incidents last night where there are questions about how some officers may have interacted with our protesters so we will be looking at that,” said Sullivan.


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