Students protest outside of the MLK event

“The Town of Brookline MLK Celebration: Keeping the Promise,” was an event held on Jan. 18, that strove to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. With hundreds in attendance at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee hosted a program full of speeches, poems and songs as a tribute to the legacy of Dr. King. Throughout the event, speakers both articulated Dr. King’s achievements and reminded the audience how racism is still prevalent in Brookline. Outside the celebration, approximately 35 people protested alleged racism in the Brookline Police and Fire Departments, an issue that has been magnified with the allegations of racial discrimination and prejudice by Brookline Police Officers Prentice Pilot and Estifanos Zerai-Misgun.

Brookline students and residents who took part in the protest outside explained how they felt about the event.

Senior Maya Jakubowski

Protesters outside of Coolidge Corner Theater hold signs including ones with the words "Clean House." According to protesters, this phrase refers to the goal of taking elected officials who protestors say perpetrated alleged racism out of office.
Petra Huang / Contributor
Protesters outside of Coolidge Corner Theater hold signs including ones with the words “Clean House.” According to protesters, this phrase refers to the goal of taking elected officials who protestors say here perpetrated alleged racism out of office.

“It is pretty ironic that the same people who are promoting racism, within the police department and towards the employees and the citizens of Brookline, are also planning an event that is promoting equality.”

Brookline resident Ginger Melton

“A year ago Officer Pilot and Officer Zerai-Misgun went to Brookline Police Department Chief Daniel C. O’Leary and asked that something be done about the . At this point, they literally feel unsafe working on the police force. You need to be able to trust that your fellow officers are going to have your back when something serious and deadly happens. Because of the racism by their superior officers, they no longer feel safe. We are asking the town to give them paid leave while the town gets to the root of the problem and solves the issues.”

Senior Hal Triedman

“There were alleged incidents of racism in the Brookline Police Department and in the Brookline Fire Department. In the case of White officers who were under investigation for indecent assault and battery, they were given paid leave, whereas the two Black officers who were whistle blowers and who were talking about institutionalized racism are not getting paid leave. They have had to use all of their sick days.”

Senior Camille Whyte

“I feel like Brookline definitely uses this day as a token day of diversity to be like, ‘yes, our town is diverse,’ when in actuality, Brookline residents, especially the selectmen and the police officers, treat people of color in a very racist manner. I don’t think that’s something I want to be supporting, (so I’m standing) outside and not supporting this token day of color.”

Senior Talia Putnoi

“I think personally, there’s a lot of controversy around this. I know my mom was like, ‘Why are you protesting this?’ I think it’s hard but I think that action is carrying out Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream in a way that perhaps just sitting and singing doesn’t. I want to take action. I don’t want to be passive, and that’s the reason why I’m here.”