More than one hundred people came out for a “noise demonstration” on February 22 to drown out the hateful and reactionary messages of a “Back the Blue” pro-police, pro-ICE and Customs and Border Patrol rally outside Boston Police Headquarters. The rally was called by the far-right group Super Happy Fun America, a not-so-clever rebranding of the group Resist Marxism — the same who organized the “Straight Pride Parade” in August of 2019.
Hardly a dozen protestors waving American flags and wearing Trump 2020 insignia were dwarfed by the progressive counter-protest. The Boston Police set up a metal barricade that completely surrounded their headquarters, but only intervened between the two groups when tensions began to rise, displaying their loyalty to the protection of private property rather than citizens. Protesters hurled racist and homophobic insults while the counter-protesters chanted “No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!” and “Black Lives Matter!” to the sound of a brass band, whistles and drums.
The counter-protesters aimed to “highlight the connection between white supremacist and fascist violence and police violence, both in Boston and nationally.” The Boston Police headquarters is unsurprisingly located in the Black and brown working class community of Roxbury, and organizers were hopeful that their noise demo would help block the hateful messages from reaching passerbys.
Elizabeth Rucker, an organizer of the counter-demonstration, talked in depth with Liberation News. “We have to be out here confronting them, so that they don’t grow. If they were out here unopposed, there would be twenty more at the next rally and so on. We have to be out here showing them, ‘yeah, we’re always going to outnumber you five to one.’”
When asked how she would respond to the comment “but the police keep us safe,” Rucker said:
“Safety for whom? From what? When? Where, and why? Who is safe from the Boston Police Department? Certainly not the homeless and drug-using population of the city who were attacked by police early in August, had their wheelchairs thrown away, their medications thrown away, had warrants run on them, things like that. It’s certainly not the people at Straight Pride later that month that were attacked in a police riot against ordinary people showing up against white supremacy and fascism, and for their rights as LGBTQ people. The police fill many functions in our society that we could better meet if we addressed root issues, like healthcare, education, jobs, housing, and the economic system, right?”
Adam Bagni with WCVB Channel 5 Boston also interviewed Rucker, but reduced her comments simply to “I think there are better and worse cops, but there are no good police.”
In an interview with Liberation News, Bagni said his role as a local news reporter is to remain neutral. “Our goal as a local organization is to try to stay as down-the-middle as we possibly can… we were able to speak with some people on both sides. There is a lot of distrust … on both sides. So there were sides — both sides didn’t want to speak to us, but we were able to talk to people on both sides.”
In his article, Bagni frames the police as neutral actors, saying they were “caught in the middle” between these two sides. This attitude is a disservice to both the integrity of journalism and to the local community he is writing for. Mainstream media across the country latched onto the “Straight Pride Parade” last summer with largely uncritical coverage, arguably aiding its attendance and in turn the escalated violent response by police against counter-protesters.
Besides setting up the metal barriers, the police did shockingly little — a stark contrast to their violent suppression of progressive and anti-fascist counter-protesters at the “Straight Pride Parade.” At one point, two Liberation News reporters crossed the street to take some pictures of the crowd from a distance. Mark Sahady (a lead organizer of the far-right action) and a man wearing a shark suit and an “Abolish the EPA” sign crossed the street to harass the reporters, despite their visible press passes. The man shouted directly into their faces with a bullhorn, babbling transphobic and racist comments, and asking “have you ever been laid? You ever been laid with a shark before? You guys don’t look like you’ve ever had a job. Do you have a job?” Despite the protest’s outward racist, homophobic and anti-immigrant messaging, local news outlets mostly downplayed this rhetoric and focused on making the left look extreme, calling their views “from the political fringe.”
The far-right demonstration was also critical of Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins for “a lack of proper prosecution” of counter-demonstrators arrested during “Straight Pride,” claiming that these protesters “attacked” the police. This is disturbingly close to statements made by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh about the events of that day. In a prior interview with Liberation News, despite clear video footage documenting the contrary, Walsh claimed that the protesters were not brutalized by police, and that the police did their job to “keep people safe.”
As Rucker recalls, “Protesters were brutalized. I was running jail support … I know at least three people had concussions, including juveniles. Broken hands, lacerations, pepper spray directly to the face, use of pressure points … It’s just objectively true that police brutalized protesters. I characterize that brutalization as a police riot.”
By framing the working-class left as fringe or extreme, what these local news organizations and politicians accomplish is in effect the same as the goals of far-right groups like the ones that organized the Feb. 22 event in Boston — framing these nascent fascist demonstrations in a way that is more digestible to mainstream conservatives, appealing to their sensibilities and providing them with a point of entry to then move further to the right, and further against their own interests.
Despite having the support of the forces of state repression, attendance at the “Back the Blue” rally quickly dwindled, and the remaining demonstrators left their own event two hours ahead of schedule to the sound of singing and cheering counter-demonstrators. No arrests were made. The counter-demonstration ended with a reading of the names of some of those killed by both the police and far-right extremists in recent years.
Those lost to police violence:
Usaamah Rahim, Boston
Terrence Coleman, Boston
Bo Ramsy White, Boston
Sandra Bland, Austin
Rekia Boyd, Chicago
Michael Brown, Ferguson
Eric Garner, NYC
Atatiana Jefferson, Fort Worth
Terence Crutcher, Tulsa
Those lost to white supremacist and fascist violence:
Heather Heyer, Charlottesville
Beatrice Warren-Curtis, Dayton
Saaed Saleh, Dayton
Arturo Benavides, El Paso
Sara Esther Regalado, El Paso
Tywanza Sanders, Charleston
Myra Thompson, Charleston
Bernice Simon, Pittsburgh
David Rosenthal, Pittsburgh