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Rollins forming racial ‘Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission’

Boston Herald logo Boston Herald 7/1/2020 Sean Philip Cotter
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 2: District Attorney Rachael Rollins speaks during a news conference with other Massachusetts elected officials of color to show their support for those protesting agains police brutality and systemic racism outside the State House on June 2, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) © Provided by Boston Herald BOSTON, MA - JUNE 2: District Attorney Rachael Rollins speaks during a news conference with other Massachusetts elected officials of color to show their support for those protesting agains police brutality and systemic racism outside the State House on June 2, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins is forming a “Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission” with an eye on healing longstanding racial tensions in Boston over issuers such as the busing crisis and the Charles Stuart case.

“We need to confront our ugly past to create a more just and equitable future,” Rollins insisted in a live-streamed press conference with fellow progressive district attorneys.

The news release from Grassroots Law Project, the organization behind the initiative, describes the commissions as attempting to “address the serious trauma inflicted by a legal system that has gone largely unchecked for generations. They will begin as pilot projects that will create a process for district attorneys and their communities to hear from victims of police and prosecutor misconduct and find ways for those victims to heal.”

Rollins said she has reached out to more than 40 local community groups.

“It’s not going to work unless they tell us where the harms are and how they want it to manifest itself,” she said in the press conference, joined by DAs Larry Krasner of Philadelphia and Chesa Boudin of San Francisco.

Rollins specifically pointed out two situations that she said encapsulate the poor treatment of minorities in recent Boston history. In the ’70s, a judge deemed that the schools were effectively racially segregated, and that that should be undone by a mandated busing plan. Racial tensions spiked as Black children were bused into predominantly white schools, and vice versa, sparking massive and at times violent protests by the largely white opponents of integrative busing.

The Charles Stuart case involved a white man saying that a Black man carjacked and murdered his wife and her unborn child, leading to police tearing through the large minority neighborhoods of Roxbury and Mission Hill and one Black man ultimately being changed in the murder.

But it then came out that Chuck Stuart himself had killed his wife, at which point the murderer flung himself from the Tobin Bridge.

“Hell was rained down on this community by the Boston Police Department,” Rollins said of Mission Hill.

This push for reconciliation comes amid a national focus on racial issues. Protests, following several high-profile police killings of minorities, have continued nearly every day for a month, calling for police reforms and other changes.

Rollins, who was elected DA in 2018 on a progressive platform that included moving to charge fewer crimes, is the first Black woman to be a district attorney in the state. Suffolk County encompasses Boston, Revere, Chelsea and Winthrop.

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