In small groups, they entered the Primark department store on Summer Street in Boston’s Downtown Crossing around midday today. Clerks noted that the store was packed with people, but no one seemed to be buying anything. Then the group–immigrants rights protesters, it turned out–began blasting salsa music and dancing in the aisles. “#MigrantBoycott,” read a banner they unfurled in the lobby.
The “Salsa Shutdown” was organized by Movimiento Cosecha Boston.
“Cosecha is a new popular movement for the permanent protection, respect and dignity for undocumented people in this country,” Phoebe Gardner, a volunteer organizer with Cosecha, said beforehand to the group of a couple hundred protesters readying in the basement of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral on Tremont Street.
They called for an economic boycott. “We are shutting down Downtown Crossing because it is a hub of stores that depend on immigrants who buy there everyday,” the group wrote on the protest’s Facebook event page.
“We are going to win permanent protection finally in this country,” Gardner told the protesters in the church basement. “We know that the political system, whether its Democrats or Republicans, does not care about the undocumented community. Now under Trump, the government is going to be even more hostile. Our real power is as consumers–what we buy in the shops … and the workers. The migrant boycott is the step leading up to the massive general strike. … The strike is going to be so massive that the government is going to have no choice but to give protection to the undocumented community.”
At Primark, police soon arrived, first just a couple, then about half a dozen, some in uniform and at least one in plain-clothes. After about 10 minutes of negotiations, the protesters exited.
The group continued down Washington Street and entered the T.J. Maxx shop, where they again blasted salsa, danced in the aisles, and unfurled their banner. Store employees ordered the protesters to leave, but they continued with the music and dancing. So police were called.
“Since you arranged this, we’re going to arrest you first,” a Boston police sergeant (pictured at top) barked at the protesters’ police liaison. Again after some minutes, the group exited the store, with apparently none arrested.
The protesters proceeded to the seating next to the Millennium Tower, where they rallied and danced and cheered.
Photos copyright 2016 Greg Cook.