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Oct 1, 19

A Report Back from the Boston Police “Straight Pride” Riot

A report back from Lehigh Valley Anarchists on the recent so-called Straight Pride Parade in Boston, where people en masse took to the streets against the far-Right and faced a violent police attack.

On August 31, 2019, a small contingent of activists from Eastern Pennsylvania joined about 800 others from all over the country in Boston, Massachusetts to counter-protest the Straight Pride Parade. The parade was organized by a group that calls itself Super Happy Fun America. It’s a front group for the notoriously violent hate groups Resist Marxism, the Proud Boys, and the American Guard. This parade was not an expression of pride; it was an expression of hate and bigotry. This last June marked the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, widely regarded among historians as the birth of the modern queer liberation movement. Straight Pride was a clear and emphatic rejection of the progress made from fifty years of queer struggle.

The counter-protest was organized as a non-centralized mass action. All contingents of the Left were present and organized. The first plan of action on Saturday morning was to be undertaken primarily by the Boston Democratic Socialists of America. The plan was to enter Copley Square, where the Straight Pride Parade was to start, and engage in a “noise demo” against the parade goers as they prepared for the parade. In other words, protesters were going to answer the far-Right’s speech with their own chants and revelries. A local brass band was there to help.

There was no ban on masks in Boston that day, so by 10 a.m., anarchists and other antifascists were at a staging area in Boston Commons, gearing up in black bloc. The black bloc is a tactic developed in post-war West Germany to respond to police abuse and fascist violence at protests. The idea is that everyone wears black and covers their face and hair in order to blend in. It protects the most vulnerable activists from police or fascist retaliation. Just like most antifascist tactics, the black bloc is largely defensive—a response to the large-scale targeted harassment campaigns organized by the far-Right on image boards, chat rooms, and other dark corners of the internet. The bloc’s purpose that day was to maintain a defensive line between the noise demo and the parade goers.

The Rhode Island John Brown Gun Club came early as well, armed only with first aid supplies, including water bottles filled with an antiacid and water mixture used to treat pepper spray injuries. The Bostonian Left also showed up, unified and en masse, to tell these hateful and violent people that they are not in friendly territory. But things didn’t go as planned.

“The bike unit chased the bloc through the streets of Boston until they were able to loop around and blend into the larger body of protesters that had assembled on the edge of the Commons along Boylston Street. The cops were rioting.”

At around 10:30 a.m., before anything got moving, the Boston PD Bike Unit led by Captain John Danilecki circled round the bloc using a tactic known as “kettling,” in which officers surround a group with the intent to instigate arrests. Danilecki is on video de-masking, searching, and pushing protesters unprovoked. Inevitably, some people lost their balance and the police started throwing people to the ground. One officer can be seen on video with his knee and full body weight on the head of a non-resistant protester. Shouts of “Off his head! Off his head!” echoed through the streets until the officer stood up. Several people were arrested, including a dear friend from the Lehigh Valley, before the protest even started. Our comrade is seen on camera trying to calm down a person being de-masked and roughed up before he was tackled unprovoked by two bike cops.

The noise demo couldn’t enter Copely Sqaure as planned. The bike unit chased the bloc through the streets of Boston until they were able to loop around and blend into the larger body of protesters that had assembled on the edge of the Commons along Boylston Street. The cops were rioting.

Throughout the day, Captain Danilecki was caught on camera indiscriminately using pepper spray and other forms of violence against counter-protesters assembling on public easements. The chants, first directed at the fascists in the parade, quickly turned against the police. It became evident as the day went on that the police were part of the Straight Pride Parade. There were more police than parade-goers; they came from all over Massachusetts. The MA State Police were there, dressed in all black. Armed and armored, they stood at attention, with their backs to the fascists, as their commanding officer paced in front.

The bloc was not big enough to take on the cops, so antifascists changed priorities. They provided first aid and helped people get out of harms way. One protester in bloc could be seen helping people over concrete planters. Cops carefully corralled the protest between a concrete wall and a wrought iron fence, then drove motorcycles through the middle of the congested mass. Those they helped turned around to help more people escape. Others carried injured protesters to street medics and helped wash out people’s eyes. Almost all of them spent some time keeping people away from especially aggressive officers like Danilecki. No one had the sense to fight the cops. We didn’t have the numbers.

“The bloc was not big enough to take on the cops, so antifascists changed priorities. They provided first aid and helped people get out of harms way.”

Molly Conger, an activist and writer from Charlottesville, tweeted, “i had some guardian angels in the bloc today. thank you to the probably half a dozen different people today who grabbed me by my backpack and pulled me out of harm’s way. you’re the best.” Conger was pepper sprayed twice by Danilecki.

The action reached it’s climax as the parade goers were leaving. Despite a peaceful assembly, the bike cops did not take any time to clear out the crowd of counter-protesters. They formed a line and began to push the crowd back with their bikes. They took a old woman’s cane from her and dragged her into a paddy wagon when she couldn’t move. The protesters were beginning to stiffen into a line when Danilecki, yet again, unholstered his pepper spray and began to spray indiscriminately into the crowd, spraying several members of the press, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate (and Straight Pride speaker) Adam Kokesh, and countless others.

The cops took our comrade all the way to the other side of the city. It was as inconvenient as possible. Thanks to the a bail fund set up by the Lucy Parson’s Center and legal aid from the National Lawyers’ Guild, we were able to pick them up that night. By the time we left the bar, all of our phones were dead. We found our way back to our host’s place using a comrade’s encyclopedic knowledge of Fallout 4, and then drove to the lockup. The next day in the outskirts of Boston, all of us joined an effort to remove the fascist stickers that found their way onto the of street signs, lamp posts, and postal boxes in LGBT-friendly neighborhoods.

The trend from police protection of to police involvement in fascist movements is not isolated to the Boston area. Sixth months ago, the Guardian uncovered a secret relationship between Joey Gibson, the leader of the Oregon-based Christian dominionist group Patriot Prayer, and Lt. Jeff Niiya of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), the then commander of PPB’s “Rapid Response Team” (SWAT). The Guardian accused Jeff Niiya of tipping Gibson off on the arrestables within his ranks, allowing many of the more dangerous far right insurgents a chance to escape after battering counter-protesters. On September 12th, the chief of the PPB cleared Niiya of all charges.

In the Summer of 2016, a group of Philidelphia lawyers began talking to each other about different police officers who had posted racist, sexist, or otherwise reactionary content on public FaceBook groups. That conversation lead to the creation of the Plain View Project, an open database of those very posts made by current and former cops throughout the country (with lots of content for Philadelphia). On July 1, Propublica published an investigative report that uncovered a FaceBook Group with 9,500 current and former Border Patrol Agents. Anti-migrant dehumanization, rape culture, and far-Right politics are dominant themes within the group.

On September 4, Suffolk County Judge Richard Sinnott stepped beyond his powers, refusing to accept District Attorney Rachael Rollins’ motion to dismiss most of people arrested in Boston at the Straight Pride Parade. He put defense attorney Susan Church under arrest for contempt when she tried to cite the same case law as Rollins. After she was released, Susan Church joined the discussion on WGBH’s Greater Boston show:

“The court room was packed with police officers. I heard them cheer when I was handcuffed and led away. This politicization of our courts, in a country where the rule of law is essential to our democracy, is extremely concerning.” – Susan Church, Greater Boston (09/04/19).

We have had a problem with police in our country since there were police. From Black Lives Matter and Occupy, all the way back to the Underground Railroad and the Sons of Liberty, resistance against the “enforcers” of the law has always been essential part of the liberatory process. It’s critical to think about why.

~ Oaks

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