Straight Pride Against Hate Counterprotesters Statement (Below), On Detainees
BOSTON—Boston Mayor Marty J. Walsh continues to receive complaints and reactions over his decision to allow the Straight Pride Parade (SPP) to take place last Saturday (Aug. 31) and to assign, what many considered to be, a colossal contingency of police officers (and funding) to protect the parade attendees, according to media reports and recordings.
“They have a 1st Amendment right to be able to go in and march down Boylston St.,” said the Mayor via an interview with WBUR’s Radio Boston on Tuesday*. “I’d love to see them not come here but unfortunately I have no way of keeping them out of Boylston St. and keep them out of marching here. If I could I would. I knew that if we went to court that that would’ve fallen right back on me in about two seconds, that that order would’ve been reestablished.”
But Boston City Council Andrea J. Campbell, thinks that the current process to review and accept applicants to march in a parade should change, according to a post she shared via her Facebook account. Campbell said that the city should review its process for approving public events after what happened at the SPP.
“While I am a firm believer in free speech, I’m not okay with wasting tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for a group to come into Boston from out of state to create chaos and spread hate. I would have preferred our taxpayer dollars be spent on community policing and violence prevention in our neighborhoods,” her post read. “This provides us with an opportunity to review our permitting process, especially with respect to organizations that are pretending to march under the guise of free speech but instead marching to promote hate, racism and bigotry, and thus incite violence.”
Super Happy Fun America, aka John Hugo organizer of the Straight Pride Parade, has made his anti-LGBQ and Trans statements in the past via social media and wanted his “straight flag” to be flown at City Hall too, Hugo said via a Fox News interview in June 2019.
According to various news reports, there were approximately a few hundred participants in the SPP and over 1,000 rose up in counter-protest. The counter-protest effort was spearheaded by Solidarity Against Hate-Boston (SAHB), a coalition of community groups and individuals who have been mobilizing against fascist organizing in Boston since 2017.
“In the lead up to the event, we heard a lot of ‘Why are you giving these Nazis any attention? That’s what they want!’ It’s a sentiment we hear pretty often, and we reject it absolutely,” stated Claudia, a SAHB activist, via a collective statement sent directly to The Rainbow Times.
The Mayor’s Decision
Mayor Walsh’s interest, according to his interview with the radio station, was to uphold the city’s values while allowing the marchers to do what they, under the law, are allowed to do.
“But what I’m concerned the most or upset about the most is that the Straight Pride organizers, what they want to see, is division between people … and that’s exactly what they’re starting to see now,” said the Mayor. “Our values in Boston are inclusion, acceptance, love and we need to make sure that we continue to do that and continue to pass that message along, and let people know that we’re a great city. The best parade in our city, some of the best, one of the best, is Gay Pride and I’m proud to march in that Parade every year. We don’t have problems in that parade. There are no issues in that parade. It’s about love and respect and that’s what we have to continue to be pushing for.”
But SAHB contends, and agrees with Councilwoman Campbell, as it pertains to the permit and the messages that SPP was being allowed to send to Bostonians and the thousands of students settling in as college season starts, as their statement continued.
“The city should never have approved this permit,” Claudia, SAHB, wrote. “The mayor said they approved [it] based on ‘operational feasibility,’ but we have to wonder what the feasibility standards are for him to think that it was a good idea to have a crew of known street brawlers marching through downtown on the same weekend that thousands of students are moving in and leases are turning over, knowing that these people beat up civilians when they’re unopposed and that large crowds are what have in the past effectively opposed them.
“Instead, he decided to spend God knows how much of this city’s money, which could have been better spent on fixing literally any actual problem facing our residents, on trucking in riot cops from as far away as Amesbury to block major streets, harass peaceful protesters, and arrest street medics. “Meanwhile, right next door, Cambridge just announced the cancellation of the Caribbean Carnival, a beloved and joyous cultural festival, over concerns about ‘potential violence.’”
The Rainbow Times contacted the Boston Police Media Relation’s Department by phone and e-mail two days in a row to inquire about the arrests, the police contingency, and to know if any marchers were arrested, but no answer was received for the two given deadlines, despite confirmation of receipt.
According to news reports and the Mayor’s interview with WBUR-Radio, thirty-six people were arrested at the parade and four officers also suffered non-life threatening injuries.
The “Straight Pride is Hate Pride” organizers’ FB Page states that recordings of the police depict the use of what many considered to be “excessive” force and arrests allegedly directed only at them and not the SPP people who were carrying “inflammatory” and prejudiced signs.
“Make Normal Seem Normal Again; Unite America 1st; Flag, Nation, God; Drain The Swamp; Secure America’s Borders; 2020 Trump; In God We Trust; It’s Great To Be Straight; and even one with a drawing of Trump flipping off the crowd,” were some of the most visible signs the parade holders and marchers were carrying.
“This was clearly a parade rooted in White supremacy and was a blatant Trump 2020 re-election event,” said Noelle Nickerson**, a counterprotester. “It was obvious that the marchers and their message had nothing to do with straight pride and everything to do with ensuring that the majority stays in power.
“The late Mayor Tom Menino would’ve never allowed this act of hate and discrimination to take place on the streets of Boston, much as he did not when he stood up against Chik-Fil-A.”
Like her, business owners along the parade’s route showed their discontent with the parade marching through the city and by their businesses’. Some even placed signs on their establishments’ main entrances that read: “Go Home Alt-Right Scum.”
Enter the counterprotesters who were arrested.
Judge doubles down on arrests
“I have no shortage of things to say about how this went dreadfully wrong,” said Rod Webber, one of those arrested, via his FB Page. “I’ve been arrested twice for doing nothing more than trying to communicate with the police regarding the dispersal order …”
As Webber, others also claim being wrongfully arrested. Those detained at the Parade appeared in court on Tuesday not expecting to witness what took place.
Judge Richard Sinnott issued a more severe ruling against the counterprotesters than what the DA’s Office apparently requested. In addition, the judge set bail when it wasn’t requested either.
“There were a lot of organizations and groups that came in that were looking to disrupt the event and I can’t necessarily say that I blame them but you can’t do it violently,” said Mayor Walsh. “But there were other organizations that came to express their opinions too and they’re not being spoken about or being brought up right now because they did it in a different manner.”
However, one of such questionable arrests was caught on camera, according to a report from WCVB-Boston. That arrest was that of Webber himself. He was speaking through a megaphone when police officers are shown to charge at him from behind, as the various online videos show. Despite Webber’s and other videos like his—not showing any violence or resistance when the police allegedly accosted them—the judge did not change his decision.
“The Suffolk County DA has attempted to have these charges dismissed, and thus far, the judges have illegally denied the motions to dismiss,” said Claudia, SAHB.
In the case of Webber, although prosecutors moved to dismiss the charges against him, Judge Sinnott, instead, had him arrested in the court’s hallway, reported the TV station.
Webber stressed via a TV interview that he wasn’t resisting arrest.
“They called this resisting but you can see in all the wide shots of all the other journalists there, that’s simply not the case,” Webber stated. “They’re making things up.”
According to Mayor Walsh, he takes acts of police misconduct seriously.
“And was there misconduct? And certainly, we take any complaints about police misconduct seriously, and the commissioner also does as well,” he said to WBUR Radio. “And if there’s something out there, an incident that happened … I mean, you can’t get a full vision of what’s going on in a 20-second clip on a video. You just can’t. There are things that happened before that or lead up to that.”
But for many, his posts and words were empty ones. In Twitter, at least 209 users replied to the Mayor’s comments with anger and disapproval of his decision to allow a large contingency of Boston Police officers to protect Super Happy Fun America.
Dayna (@daynabradstreet) was one of those who replied to the Mayor’s Twitter post.
“Look, I don’t live in Boston anymore but I voted for you when I did,” Dayna’s post reads. “The police presence and the fact that they were protecting the white supremacists and went after the counterprotesters is a massive betrayal of that vote. Shame on you, Mayor, and shame on @bostonpolice.”
An At-Large City Councilor candidate for Salem, Mass. who attended the counterprotest expressed disbelief at the amount of police force used.
“The most disturbing thing witnessed was the overwhelming show of force by the police, [it was] unnecessary, that was much more directed towards the counter-protesters,” said Jeff Cohen, Co-Chair, Salem No Place For Hate. “A much smaller force could have provided the necessary buffer.”
Other counterprotester agreed with Cohen regarding how the police handled the counterprotesters v. the parade marchers, who were seen inciting those protesting the event.
“The ‘parade’ was a political campaign for fascism,” said Jenn Nakhai, Therapist, Aeon Counseling & Consulting. “The unnecessary use of force by the police. They seemed to protect the hateful crowd. The crowd inciting violence, including systemic violence.”
Nakhai also blamed the media for their portrayal of marginalized communities but believes change is on the horizon, but not without a fight.
“It was beautiful to see our trans sisters rise up and fight back,” she said. “The media manipulates anti-fascist movement participants, making them look like criminal outcasts. However, it is the very unity of women, people of color and LGBT++ folks that combined forces to create the anarchistic style of successful protest we need. The revolution will be young, female, trans and all other intersectionalities of oppressed peoples.”
To act or not to act?
Organizations like Boston Pride, the total opposite of Straight Pride, put out a general statement on their website regarding the march that many lauded.
“Boston Pride is not interested in responding to their bait. Our strength comes from directing our attention and energy to helping one another meet the challenges of intersecting oppressions,” the statement read. “Boston Pride will continue to focus on supporting and empowering members of the LGBTQ community. We will continue to focus on the needs of people of color, trans individuals, and all those who have experienced racism, xenophobia, and sexism.”
SAHB, however, disagrees with such an approach and Instead, they believe the SHFA can only be tackled with action.
“In the lead up to the event, we heard a lot of ‘Why are you giving these Nazis any attention? That’s what they want!’ It’s a sentiment we hear pretty often, and we reject it absolutely,” read the statement. “We see no examples in history of fascists becoming more powerful as a result of being confronted in public. We see no examples of fascism going away by itself from being ignored. Fascists don’t want ‘attention;’ they want to organize to commit violence, and disrupting their events and their organizing efforts makes it harder for them to do that.
“The kind of attention that does build up the Nazis is media attention. Too many people treated the Straight Pride Parade like a joke, where they should have been looking at it like what it was: an attempt to recruit people into organized fascism.”
The fight continues
SAHB, with the help of a Tweet that asked for donations by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), set up a bail fund that exceeded the fundraising goal of $15K. It was closed on Sept. 1 after receiving a total of $24,652.
As a result of the alleged police actions taken on SPP day, a new FB Group has formed. “Shame on Marty Walsh: A Response to police violence.” The group will meet this weekend to discuss what took place at the SPP and hold the Mayor and others accountable for it.
“Proud Boy president Enrique Tarrio has said that their group’s goal is to bankrupt major cities by flying their goons in and making the cities spend all their money on riot control,” read Claudia’s statement from SAHB. “We suggest Mayor Walsh do an even minimal amount of research into these hate groups the next time they show up with their hands out, whining that they’re oppressed if Boston doesn’t spend all our taxpayers’ money on them. And perhaps he can dig up some concern about ‘potential violence’ from the likes of New Hampshire American Guard President John Camden or ‘Fourth Degree’ Proud Boy Kenny Lizardo, both known fascist street brawlers who have already injured Boston community members at other events.”
Thousands protested the SPP. A couple of hundred marched in the Parade.
Read SAHB’s complete statement below. To check out more photos about the protest, visit The Rainbow Times’ Facebook page.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: The Rainbow Times sent the Mayor’s Office two direct series of questions. The first time, they sent a brief general statement without addressing the specific questions asked about the Parade, arrests, police force, etc. The second time around, The Rainbow Times received the audio recording from the Mayor’s Office with parts of the Mayor’s interview from WBUR-Radio as a response.
**Noelle Nickerson’s last name has been changed at the request of the interviewee and her desire to remain partially anonymous.
Solidarity Against Hate Statement
“We want to thank everyone who showed up on Saturday, everyone who worked tirelessly in the months beforehand to disrupt the parade’s organizing and everyone who has helped support injured and arrested protesters in the days following Saturday’s police violence.
There are many ways to be antifascist, and we would be putting many good folks at risk if we listed them all by name. But we see you all, and we appreciate the labor you put into defending our community, no matter how unglamorous. Everyone who liaised between groups and developed connections to build a robust, largely invisible infrastructure of protest and community care; everyone who spread around information about SHFA and its affiliates; everyone who participated in the call-in campaigns and mass reportings; everyone who donated to the bail fund; and most importantly, everyone who put their bodies on the line to hit the streets and make it clear that Boston rejects hate in all its forms.
In the leadup to the event, we heard a lot of “Why are you giving these nazis any attention? That’s what they want!” It’s a sentiment we hear pretty often, and we reject it absolutely.
We see no examples in history of fascists becoming more powerful as a result of being confronted in public. We see no examples of fascism going away by itself from being ignored. Fascists don’t want “attention;” they want to organize to commit violence, and disrupting their events and their organizing efforts makes it harder for them to do that. Indeed, here in Boston, the organizers had been struggling to rebuild from the many public failures Boston’s antifascists had handed to them. Boston has shouted them down, ruined their live streams, gotten them banned from PayPal and kicked out of restaurants, flyered their neighborhoods. Until the “Straight Pride Parade” went viral, they couldn’t so much as organize an argument in a bar. (They tried, and got kicked out of the bar.)
The kind of attention that does build up the nazis is media attention. Too many people treated the Straight Pride Parade like a joke, where they should have been looking at it like what it was: an attempt to recruit people into organized fascism.
The city should never have approved this permit. The mayor said they approve based on “operational feasibility,” but we have to wonder what the feasibility standards are for him to think that it was a good idea to have a crew of known street brawlers marching through downtown on the same weekend that thousands of students are moving in and leases are turning over, knowing that these people beat up civilians when they’re unopposed and that large crowds are what have in the past effectively opposed them. Instead, he decided to spend God knows how much of this city’s money, which could have been better spent on fixing literally any actual problem facing our residents, on trucking in riot cops from as far away as Amesbury to block major streets, harass peaceful protesters, and arrest street medics. Meanwhile, right next door, Cambridge just announced the cancellation of the Carribean Carnival, a beloved and joyous cultural festival, over concerns about “potential violence.”
Proud Boy president Enrique Tarrio has said that their group’s goal is to bankrupt major cities by flying their goons in and making the cities spend all their money on riot control. We suggest Mayor Walsh do an even minimal amount of research into these hate groups the next time they show up with their hands out, whining that they’re oppressed if Boston doesn’t spend all our taxpayers’ money on them. And perhaps he can dig up some concern about “potential violence” from the likes of New Hampshire American Guard President John Camden or “Fourth Degree” Proud Boy Kenny Lizardo, both known fascist street brawlers who have already injured Boston community members at other events.
As you all know, Saturday’s peaceful noise demo against hate was subject to a police riot, resulting in multiple injuries and 34 counterprotesters being arrested on vague charges like “disorderly conduct.” The Suffolk County DA has attempted to have these charges dismissed, and thus far, the judges have illegally denied the motions to dismiss.
While this kind of police and court behavior represents an escalation in the policing of large, midday, downtown protests—usually a venue for the Boston Police Department to convince Boston’s large population of white progressives that they are professionals and that a political rally is just a nice day out on the Common—it fits part and parcel with the arbitrary cruelty the city’s criminal justice system regularly enacts upon less powerful populations, especially communities of color and the homeless. Boston is currently more than a month into a monstrous project called “Operation Clean Sweep,” in which the BPD raids homeless people’s encampments and destroy their few belongings. Most infamously, we have seen them throwing unhoused people’s wheelchairs into garbage trucks to be crushed.
We demand that the Suffolk County DA fulfill her campaign promises and stand up against corrupt judges and police violence. We demand nolle prosequi for all victims of the August 31 police riot, and for all victims of Operation Clean Sweep. We demand that the Mayor and the Boston City Council—which is up for reelection in just a few weeks–severely reduce the police budget and reinvest that money in things that will actually help residents thrive, such as public education. We demand that the DA’s office eliminate cash bail, which provides a financial incentive for over-policing while further criminalizing poverty.
We hope that you will all join us in making these demands, and in holding the city accountable if they are not met. If we are to stand against the forces of violence, hate, and exploitation, we must all stand in solidarity with each other, because we will not succeed if we stand alone.”
*** Claudia, an activist with Solidarity Against Hate, sent the collective statement for SAHB. ***