Cloth shoes and just below freezing don’t mix. A friend, another medical student, reminded me of that some months ago; I own warm boots that I had erroneously chosen not to wear the night of the protest. Though, medical school has sapped a lot of my free time away, I’ve slowly kept up with developing cases of Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamil Rice, among others to be killed while unarmed by the police in the US. I planned on going with other classmates that night of the protest, but we were never able to make the logistics happen in the crowded square. The event was going to coincide with the Christmas tree lighting at Boston Commons, a popular outdoor park for both tourist and locals.
I had arrived early to the protest, the police had wardened off a group of protesters; thus allowing them to protest yet preventing myself and others from joining them. As a consequence the ratio of protester to people in disgust of the protest was tipped in favor of our opponents who mocked our “inappropriateness” to stage a protest around Christmas. Is it more polite to abhor social injustice after the presents are opened? Fortunately, the ranks were soon bolstered as other neighboring students from Harvard, Northeastern, UMass (and of course my own institution). Understanding we lacked organization because of the protester quarantine we relocated to the corners of the park and organized a coordinated march. As we marched, others joined us, at last the numbers were burgeoning. At first it was just the young and hopeful, soon the young were joined by the old, and between them chanting in chorus with families of different races. That day I was reminded that as humans our first instinct is to not be the nail sticking out that gets hammered down, so it’s easier to express dissent when you know you’re not the only one. Soon, the police realized the protest had grown larger than they anticipated, so additional police were called and a helicopter requested. Neither the less, there was no violence that night from either side.
A few days after this event, five us of decided to try to string together an event as a social protest. Very soon we learned that other medical schools were already conjuring up the same plan, so we decided to host our “White Coat Die In” on the same day as others. This gave us about 3 days to organize the event. Fortunately, everything fell into place to make a coordinated 45 minute event: the university gave us space on short notice (we even got a thumbs up from the dean of medicine) and no security problems, by luck of the draw I gave opening remarks, and we had words from other organizers and one BUSM higher up. Attending was excellent: medical students (nearly 100), dental, and public health students also joined in protest in solidarity. A reporter from reached out to us, and the event was reported in Al Jazeera. The planning committee as grown, and we’re now working with other established groups to bring forth increased awareness and possible future curriculum changes.