Right-wing and counter-protesters repeatedly clash on Boston Common
Sunday’s dueling protests came after Super Happy Fun America, a regional group that hosted the “Straight Pride Parade” in Boston, announced it would be holding a noon “Rise Against Tyranny” protest that would denounce the warrants of vaccination against COVID-19, according to a leaflet for the event.
The group has come under intense scrutiny over the past year after two of its leaders were arrested and charged in connection with the Jan.6 uprising on the United States Capitol. Sunday’s protest included opposition to “vaccine passports, unconstitutional warrants and mass layoffs,” the statement said.
A counter-demonstration, called “Mask yourself against hatred”, also took place in the town to oppose the group. The organizers of Super Fun Happy America have said the group is conservative, but reject claims they are linked to the far right.
There were no reports of injuries to protesters or officers at the scene, according to Detective Sergeant John Boyle, a spokesman for the Boston Police Department. Details were not immediately available on the two arrests made during the protests.
Elizabeth Birdsall, 39, who was among the counter-protesters, said she was helping push back those who want to make Boston “less secure and less egalitarian.” She was holding a sign saying “No Hate in Boston”.
“We heard that there was going to be a rally of anti-vaxxers and white supremacists and so on, and we wanted to help drown that out,” Birdsall said, “and support security and equality for everything. the world in Boston. “
Sunday’s scene was chaotic at times, especially when some participants in the demonstration organized by Super Happy Fun America marched around a line of police officers and engaged in fierce stampede with counter-protesters shortly before noon at a short distance to Parkman Bandstand.
Counter-protesters, including musicians playing instruments, marched around the bandstand – and numerous police barricades – to draw closer to the right-wing protests, which had moved away from the bandstand and moved closer to Tremont Street.
Wearing a three-wedge hat, John Hugo, with the group Super Happy Fun America, denounced the coronavirus vaccines in a speech to supporters. He also expressed his support for the police.
While he was speaking, counter-protesters played music and made noise through the speakers to try to cover his words.
A protester was holding a sign that read “No Freedom of Choice Mandate”. Another said she opposed COVID vaccination mandates for children.
More than 750,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19, while the worldwide death toll has exceeded 5 million. Experts including Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, said the vaccines were safe and effective. They decried the politicization of vaccines and urged eligible groups to get vaccinated.
Danforth Nicholas, 45, of Cambridge said he joined the counter-protest on Sunday to show his support for “the vaccine and the science”.
“I’m really tired of linking nationalism and disinformation with patriotism,” Nicholas said.
Even before the members of Super Fun Happy America unload their gear for the event from a van, the Quincy cops formed a line between themselves and a larger number of counter-protesters. The van was moved further away from the counter-demonstration and behind several lines of barricades and police.
A member of Super Happy Fun America criticized the police for not doing enough to protect them, and shouted at Quincy’s agents, “We used to be your biggest supporters, now we’ll be your biggest critics!”
The two sides continued to clash over the next several hours.
In one meeting, a right-wing protester was sprayed with a chemical irritant during a confrontation with a counter-protester. And at another point, protesters on both sides fought against segments of metal barricades meant to separate them. Officers wearing helmets and bulletproof vests carrying shields and batons were deployed to prevent the escalation of violence.
During another meeting shortly after 1 p.m., the two sides moved closer to each other and quarreled before heavily armored police intervened.
Boyle said police deployed officers to separate the two sides and allow protesters associated with the right-wing group to leave the area.
A Somerville resident who gave her name as Zeph said the large size of Sunday’s counter-protest sent a message that many in the area rejected hate speech.
“People can’t say hateful things without someone else getting up and saying ‘No’,” Zeph said.
John Hilliard can be reached at [email protected]