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August 24

Report Back from the Front Lines of Boston Common

“We reject Boston Police championing August 19th as a non-violent success on their part as we and our neighbors were beaten, maced, and subjected to state violence, all while fascists were given a free ride to safety with police escort.” 

In the time after Charlottesville, we are a movement in mourning.

When we learned that far-Right groups (including some present at Charlottesville) were set to descend on the Boston Common in the name of “free speech,” we formed plans to shut it down. As the number of counter-protesters intending to combat the event grew, a multiracial antifascist crew was assembled for the purpose of blocking fascist access to the event and defending our neighbors and community members, if needed.

We saw Oathkeepers, Proud Boys, right libertarian trolls, Tea Partiers, Nazi punks, fascists, and all sorts of other far right assholes. On top of that, key organizers of the “freeze peach” rally, including everyone’s favorite arachnophobe John Medlar, were late themselves. This discouraged many of their followers from entering. The crowd jeered at fascists and several small scuffles broke out between liberal bystanders and fascists. When cops (representing BPD and municipalities as far as 25 miles away, as well as state police) decided upon the entrance through which fascists would be entering, it was immediately clear that many people within the counter protest would overwhelm and blockade rally attendees. Neighbors of all political leanings, from liberal democrats to radical left, put their bodies on the line in order to prevent fascists from meeting. The police became impatient, and the pitiful 20-odd members of the “freeze peach” rally were ushered out in arrest wagons. When they later left these wagons they were free, but our comrades were in chains.

Media presence was overwhelming from the beginning. In the wake of Charlottesville, journalist attention seems to be directed at antifa crews in a new way, and cameras were trained on us from the moment we arrived at the Common. From student photojournalists, to tourists, to the crowds of gawking liberals, we were subjected to a dangerous amount of attention, not all of it innocent. Any number of reactionary photographers and undercover cops had their eyes on us at all times, and attempts to dox our comrades using these photos continue to this day. The sheer amount of photos has made it incredibly easy to pin arrestee names to faces, as well as to record comrades attendance of this and past rallies.  We understand the risks of masking our faces; but using block has proven a crucial defense against far right counter intelligence.

The tension between our crew and the police swelled as soon as we set up on the Common. It was clear that a concerted effort was made to maintain BPD’s optics in front of the media – there was never a clear line-of-sight from the bike cops patrolling the event to the riot police assembling on Boylston. Nevertheless, even before conflict between police and the counter-protest escalated to its peak later in the day, we were intermittently harassed and corralled. Bike cops entered our home base and asked us to de-mask and take our banners down before the fascists even arrived at the event – they would later confiscate our water supply in 80+ degree weather.

We moved relatively freely throughout the Common until the rally abruptly ended around 1:00pm. At that point, we could hear sirens from the direction of Emerson College, and we answered a call for crews to move in and block one of the vans being used to ferry the fascists out from the area. This is where the police became violent, far from the watchful eyes of news crews still trained on the empty bandstand. Our group became separated as some escaped toward a safe spot and others were dragged into a kettle set up by police using a bulldozer. Batons were deployed against civilians, mostly people of color. Plain clothed protesters were agitated, pushed, blocked in, and in some cases even beaten down to the ground where they were forced into ziplock handcuffs. The kettle extended down into Chinatown until the arrest wagon, assisted by motorcycle cops and a squad of maybe 30 riot police, could move through onto a clear road.

Along with this kettle we saw the deployment of horse-mounted police and chemical weapons. While this may not seem out of the ordinary for other cities, organizers in Boston have seldom seen chemical weapons since the death of Victoria Snelgrove by police pepperball in 2004. This shows the Boston community that BPD is willing to break with their conventional tactics to use chemical weapons against people who oppose fascism but not fascists themselves. We reject Boston Police championing August 19th as a non-violent success on their part as we and our neighbors were beaten, maced, and subjected to state violence, all while fascists were given a free ride to safety with police escort.

With the expected resistance to upcoming rallies in California, our hearts and hopes go out to our comrades in Berkeley. Fortune favors the brave.

keep safe // stay dangerous

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