The violent police repression at the fascist so-called “Straight Pride Parade” — which led to the arrest of 34 counter-protestors and the brutalizing of many more — was only the beginning of a rapidly expanding state-sanctioned attack against left-wing activists and the LGBTQ community in Boston. The parade and rally were not only homophobic, but also explicitly white nationalist, anti-immigrant and pro-Trump. Despite knowing this, more than 4,000 police officers from Boston and surrounding towns volunteered to spend their weekend being paid overtime to protect this bigoted and hateful display, outnumbering estimated attendance at the parade and the counter-protest combined by at least double. Since then, the attacks have continued not in the streets but in the legislature, courtrooms and mainstream pressrooms where the ruling class generates, enforces and legitimizes their system of oppression.
The court proceedings have been particularly hostile to the counter-protesters, undermining the facade of integrity within the Massachusetts legal system. In one courtroom, Judge Thomas Horgan told three of the 34 counter-protesters to “stay out of Boston” under threat of 90 days in jail, even though one has relatives in Jamaica Plain, a Boston neighborhood. When his attorney asked if he could only be banned from downtown Boston, Horgan retorted that his relatives are “going to have to visit him, then.” All three were charged with “pushing a police officer,” and all three pleaded not-guilty. This is an unjust punishment for a peaceful protester, and is being applauded by right-wing media outlets like the Boston Herald.
Additionally, Attorney Susan Church was arrested on the order of Judge Richard Sinnott simply for defending a counter-protester in court. Church was only reciting case law when she was interrupted by Sinnott, and led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. In a press conference, she reported: “I was just released after being unlawfully and unreasonably and honestly outrageously arrested for simply doing my job – for advocating for a client who the District Attorney’s office wanted to dismiss her charges… All I was trying to do was to read the law to the court and I was summarily arrested, handcuffed, brought down to the holding cell and held there for hours.” Judge Sinnott is now under investigation by the Judicial Conduct Commission.
As if that were not enough, Boston City Councilor Tim McCarthy and Massachusetts Senator Dean Tran separately proposed laws to ban demonstrators from wearing face coverings — even hoodies — at protests, which would further expose activists to threats, violence and ongoing surveillance from the police and members of the far-right — two demographics that often overlap. This proposed bill is particularly outrageous considering that many of these protesters were just assaulted with pepper spray: a reason why many wear face coverings to protests in the first place.
Mainstream media portrayed counter-protesters as the aggressors and either ignored or downplayed the hate imbued in “Straight Pride.” Despite the conservative elements of the bourgeois press lampooning Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for critiquing the police conduct, the reality is that he was the one responsible for overseeing the authorization of their exorbitant presence, wasteful expenditures and use of excessive force. When confronted by members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Walsh even said he didn’t think the counter-protesters were brutalized, when extensive video and photographic evidence demonstrates otherwise.
Walsh deflected criticism, saying “unfortunately, we have something called the First Amendment,” but this explanation rings hollow in light of the fact that in 2013, he and then-Boston Police Commissioner William Evans denied a permit for the Indian Association of Greater Boston’s annual India Day celebration due to the city’s unwillingness to pay for the security costs. This shatters the illusion of Boston’s progressive image. If Boston was truly a progressive city, not only would dozens of police officers be facing disciplinary action for assaulting counter-protesters, but the city’s massive police budget ($400 million annually and over $600,000 spent enabling “Straight Pride”) on overtime would be redirected to human needs like healthcare, housing and education.
Furthermore, the Somerville Police Department “officers who worked this event were paid out of the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which is funded through the Department of Justice Federal Equitable Sharing program, which distributes asset forfeiture funds.” In other words, the police riot was at least partially funded by assets that police stole from civilians.
Instead of throwing away money protecting fascist bigotry, a socialist government would establish educational programs promoting LGBTQ equality and combat the lies spread to lure people into homophobic, fascist movements. The U.S. ruling class only pretends to care about LGBTQ rights insofar as they can cynically manipulate the issue to promote their own interests or opportunistically demonize nations in the crosshairs of U.S. imperialism. Only through socialism, where the working class seizes and maintains state power, can LGBTQ and other oppressed peoples truly achieve liberation and participate fully in society without discrimination.