Photo taken by Maddy Schmidt (COM '21)
Robert Branning (COM '21)

Robert is a 2nd year transfer student from Stevensville, MD studying Film & Television with a minor in Vocal Performance.

Commonwealth Avenue has been riddled with orange cones since construction began on the street, and the numbers continue to grow to this day. But why are they here, and what do they want? As it turns out, they are part of a mass protest over work conditions, and they will keep multiplying til their cause is won.

MassDOT commenced a massive construction on Commonwealth Avenue in 2017. A job of this magnitude required all hands on deck, including a large staff of orange cones to assist in the construction. However, conditions for the cones were dangerous and against Massachusetts state law.

“We had to stand dangerously close to the road,” says Joel Cone of Roxbury, MA. “I watched my friend get taken out by the BU catering truck.”

Despite their efforts to notify MassDOT of the conditions, no action was taken. A few of the cones decided that the only way to make their voice heard was to start a movement.

It all started when Joel and his brother Ethan, who go by “the Cone Brothers,” gathered a few coworkers in protest. The movement quickly took off.

“I used to work down at Symphony Hall, so I’ve had my fair share of incidents,” says Leonard Cone of Boston, MA. “But from the first time I felt the swift air of a late BU Bus almost knock me over, I knew action had to be taken.”

Everyday, the Cone Brothers gather thousands cones to march down Commonwealth Avenue. They have now even reached cones outside of the construction field.

“I ditched my job as an attorney to be out here with these guys,” says Michael Cone. “I feel like I’m making more of a difference by just standing here than I ever did in a courtroom.”

Despite the surge in numbers, demonstrations have remained calm and taimed.

“The demonstrations are never violent” said a human MassDOT construction worker. “They just kind of stand there and apparently think that will make a difference. To be honest, we didn’t even know they could talk.”

Demonstrations continue to spread across Commonwealth Avenue. From cones standing on top of bus stops to picket lines, the Cone Brothers are out there fighting for their rights, and, perhaps more importantly, their lives.

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