Four Black Lives Matter protesters were arrested Wednesday outside of Cambridge City Hall, after chaining themselves to the front entrance for about nine hours while demanding that local political leaders take actions to make more affordable housing available in the city.
The four protesters — two adult men and two women who were both minors —were connected to each other by large tubes in which they interlocked their arms. Two of them also fastened themselves to the front door with u-shaped bicycle locks snapped around their necks before regular business hours.
They, and dozens of other protesters who joined them on the nearby front lawn, declared Cambridge City Hall “condemned by the authority of the people of Cambridge” and presented a list of demands to city political leaders.
Those demands included calls for:
*A requirement for developers building new homes with more than nine units to make “at least 25 percent of the units affordable,”
*Permitting MIT to build housing for its 5,500 graduate and postgraduate students, a move activists said would “open up more units for existing housing and provide family-size units,”
*A demand that free land owned by the city be used to build affordable housing and develop public spaces, and not be sold to private developers,
*An establishment of a rent-to-own program in the city, noting “there needs to be a better and more defined pathway to homeownership for low income Cantabrigians.”
Authorities were able to remove the door handle and move the protesters off to the side of the building’s entrance, Cambridge Police spokesperson Jeremy Warnick said, though they later returned to block the entrance.
“We did not have plans for arresting them,” Warnick wrote in an email. “However, after they were positioned off to the side of the main entrance (after initially locking themselves to the main door) and collectively moved back in front of the main entrance, we gave them several opportunities to move. They made no intentions of moving away from that location and they were ultimately arrested.”
The two adult protesters, Andrew King, 30, and Abraham Lateiner, 34, both of Cambridge, face disorderly conduct charges. Lateiner was also charged with interfering with a police officer.
The two young women were charged with disorderly conduct, though their names were not released because of their age.
Throughout the day, a number of city officials spoke to the crowd in an attempt to assure them that affordable housing was an issue the city took seriously.
“I just want you to know that this is important to us, and we’ve been on this for a while,” city councilor Marc McGovern said, noting many on the council supported a 20-percent rate for affordable housing in Cambridge. Last month, the council received the findings of a report which made that recommendation
“We’ve been following the discussion about raising the percentage of affordable housing…for a while,” Black Lives Matter Cambridge activist Stephanie Guirand said. “We were told that the city council was leaning in the direction of 20 percent [affordable housing], and we wanted to support them, but also push them a little bit toward that goal.”
“We don’t have money to buy politicians,” she added. “So we have to go hard.”
Guirand said protesters were concerned that the city’s affordable housing rate had not been raised in nearly two decades, contributing to widespread gentrification that disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color.
“People who don’t work in biotechnology or big professors at the universities here can’t afford to stay here,” Guirand said.
Reverend Paul Robeson Ford of the Union Baptist Church in Cambridge said he attended the protest as both a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and local community leader.
“The reality is that the movement for black lives has always been—since its inception—about more than just racist police violence and police brutality,” he said. “In particularly, it is a movement for black lives that has developed more and more…[and] there is an understanding, and a more acute focus, on all of the issues that negatively impact—not just black lives—but the lives of poor people, and disproportionately people of color. Cambridge is no exception.”
Wednesday’s protest comes about a year-and-a-half after the “Somerville 18” locked arms in trash cans filled with concrete and blocked I-93 during rush hour traffic in January 2015.
There were 29 people arrested at that protest, with all avoiding jail time for related disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges.