Boston Marathon officials respond to racist policing allegations

The Boston Athletic Association, which oversees the Boston Marathon, responded to two minority running clubs and acknowledged shortcomings in creating an inclusive and welcome environment Monday for the racially diverse runners.

‘This year, we know that we did not deliver on our promise to make it a great day for everyone,’ Boston Athletic Association president and CEO Jack Fleming said Thursday in a statement. ‘We met with two groups last night, who the B.A.A. proudly supports in their running activities, their members and their mission — PIONEERS Run Crew and TrailblazHers Run Co. — two of Boston’s premier clubs for BIPOC runners.

‘They expressed to us their deep concerns that they were not given the chance to enjoy the day and celebrate their friends, families and all participants as they approached Heartbreak Hill — that is on us. It is our job, and we need to do better to create an environment that is welcoming and supportive of the BIPOC communities at the marathon.’

Several reports from runners and social media posts from Monday showed an instance in which police working the event appeared to disproportionately single out people of color who were there to cheer on runners.

What happened during the incident at the Boston Marathon?

In one such video, a Black man is narrating how he and dozens of friends, most of them appearing to be people of color, were gathered at mile 21 to cheer on their friends who were running in the marathon. At the gathering, there appeared to be grilling and tents set up, with music playing. In the video, the people gathered are all standing around, trying to watch the race, but a row of police officers with bikes is seen lined up right in front of the cordoned-off section of the road, acting as a barrier. At one point, the camera pans to the section behind the gathering to show another set of officers, this group with motorcycles, behind the gathering.

When the camera pans to the other sections of street visible from where the recording was taking place, there is no apparent police presence at all to block the view of onlookers.

‘We were at Heartbreak Hill, but it was a different type of heartbreak,’ Aliese Lash, a leader of the of the Pioneers Run Crew, told the Washington Post. ‘We want to experience the joy of running, the joy of the course, but yesterday was just so blatant that we weren’t welcome there.’

The Pioneers Run Crew was created in 2017 and was the product of a lack of diversity in the Boston running community. Lash told the Post that the club had around 40 members run the marathon Monday.

Lash told the Post that the club has had the same gathering at every marathon they have had a participant run in and that the organization has never faced this kind of police response. She added that, as a group made up of runners, the members know rules about not crossing the boundary into the course.

‘There’s people along the entire course who do the same thing,’ Lash told the Post. ‘It’s so common for people to support their runners. But for some reason we do it and it’s not OK for us to do it.’

What was the official response from police?

According to the Post, Newton (Massachusetts) Police released a statement that said officers were dispatched to the location after ‘being notified by the BAA three times about spectators traversing the rope barrier and impeding runners.’

The Washington Post also reported that a Newton Police spokeswoman said the people gathered at the cheer party were asked to stay behind the rope and that ‘NPD with additional officers calmly used bicycles for a short period to demarcate the course and keep both the runners and spectators safe.’

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