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More than 60 protesters gathered at Cambridge City Hall Wednesday just days after a state judge ruled the actions of Liam McMahon, the Cambridge Police Department officer who shot and killed 20-year-old Sayed Faisal, were “objectively reasonable.”
At the demonstration, protesters called for McMahon’s immediate removal from the police force. The rally was the first since the release of findings from an inquest into the circumstances of Faisal’s death.
Faisal, a Cambridge resident and student at the University of Massachusetts Boston, was killed by police on Jan. 4 after officers responded to a 911 call. According to a CPD press release later that day, the caller saw Faisal harming himself with a knife and the glass of a broken window. After a footchase through several blocks of Cambridgeport, Faisal approached officers wielding the knife, and when a nonlethal round failed to stop him, McMahon fatally shot him.
Faisal’s case has sparked more than a dozen protests spanning from Cambridge to Dhaka, Bangladesh, and has led to the occupation of City Hall. Protesters have repeatedly called for the officers involved to be named, fired, and prosecuted.
The inquest findings released last week by Middlesex County District Attorney Marian T. Ryan revealed new details about Faisal’s death and named McMahon as the officer who shot him.
According to the report, McMahon and other officers cornered Faisal in a residential backyard, where Faisal aimed his knife at McMahon and began walking toward him “briskly.” When Faisal got within “five to ten feet” of him, McMahon fired six shots, the last knocking Faisal down. Faisal later died at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“He needed compassion. He needed empathy. He needed medical attention. He did not need to be met with bullets,” said Tahmid Rahman, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the event’s emcee. “We are here because we are trying to demand that Officer McMahon be fired from the Cambridge Police Department.”
“It’s the least Cambridge could do to start rebuilding trust with the community,” he added.
In an emailed statement Tuesday, McMahon’s attorney Kenneth H. Anderson wrote “given all of the evidence produced during the inquest, no one can seriously question the actions of Officer McMahon.”
“We stand by the findings of the inquest judge who found that Officer McMahon did what any reasonable police officer would have done in that horrifically tragic situation,” Anderson wrote.
Ayah Al-Zubi ’23, who is running for Cambridge City Council, said at the protest that she supported calls for McMahon to be fired and called for reform to policing in Cambridge.
“We need better mental health resources in our city and across the U.S. We need to hold the officers accountable. We need to reallocate funding from the police to community based organizations and we need to call on a reassessment of this case,” Al-Zubi said.
Council candidate Dan Totten took issue with the inquest’s finding that McMahon’s actions were reasonable.
“It turns out this is exactly how they wanted it to have gone,” Totten said. “My response to that is, ‘No fucking way.’”
“Our response to a person in crisis cannot cannot be a cop with a gun who was trained to shoot and kill,” he added.
Totten also called for CPD’s budget to be reduced.
“Cambridge’s police budget is pushing 80 million dollars,” Totten said. “This year in the aftermath of Faisal’s killing it got a 7 percent increase in a year in which we cut paraprofessional educators from our schools.”
In a press release Friday after the release of the inquest, City Manager Yi-An Huang ’05 said he supported CPD but the city will continue to explore police and public safety reform.
“The report highlights the complex, difficult, and dangerous situations our police officers face, and the challenge for us as a community to understand split-second decisions that can have tragic outcomes,” Huang wrote.
Kojo Acheampong ’26, a member of the African and African American Resistance Organization at Harvard, criticized the City of Cambridge for not releasing McMahon’s name faster.
“Since March, we have watched as the so-called progressive Cambridge refused any and all efforts to even name the police officers engaged in his killing,” he said.
City officials maintained that they would release the name of the officers who shot Faisal only after completion of the inquest, as they did last week. In June, a judge barred the city from releasing any further information until the completion of the inquest.
“There can be no peace without justice,” said Al-Zubi, who called on attendees to continue seeking justice.
“Faisal is calling upon us to seek justice in an unjust world,” she said.
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