Saturday Morning ,much to the concern of DaWife and some of my friends I got in the car and headed to Boston to cover the protests/counter protests going on in Boston post Charlottesville.
I left early enough that the traffic was fairly light and getting to Alewife station went directly to the 4th level to park. It was fairly empty at the time I got there before 10 AM.
When I got on the Subway train I found my surrounded by large groups of people carrying signs, some homemade some not. They varied from hit Nazis to attacking the “alt right” to the standard “love Trumps Hate” and “Black Lives Matter” I quietly sat and listened. It was my impression that the folks
who had come to Boston from out of town were mostly people who wanted to “make a difference”. Their grandparents had fought in World War 2 and they saw themselves as doing what they did. This was a theme I got a lot from a certain segment of the crowd once I got to Boston, a feeling that they were emulating the “greatest generation” by going to Boston to stand up to the Nazis, Fascists and Klansmen That meme was common among the people I ran into on the train and in the crowd once I got there and my primary goal in going to the event was to not only report on what I saw, but to find out if their assessment was true.
There were a fair amount of masked folks in the crowd, some wearing green who were organizing things (they seemed distinct from the ANTIFA folk who I saw later) I asked one young lady why she was wearing a mask and she replied that it was to keep her from being doxxed which seemed to be the standard line, which frankly didn’t seem all that credible to me.
At the time I got there the crowd was comparatively large but not massive as it would later become there was a large crowd by the Statehouse, that was the Marty Walsh event and various groups to the far side where the free speech rally was supposed to be. It was at this time I saw a familiar group go by.
As I continued to head deeper into the common I saw a group of folks sitting down on a bench who consented to an interview
I found the remarks about people losing their jobs ironic after the doxxing stuff the masked lady had said, but from there continued on. At this point I spotted a group of State Police and spoke to one about them.
He said they would do their best to protect everyone’s first amendment rights (and from what I saw there was a large enough police presence to do so. I asked him about the masked ANTIFA folks, he mentioned that they were a worry but as there was no law against wearing a mask on the common all they could do is keep an eye on them.
I walked all the way to the far end where the pond was and then doubled back to get to the gazebo. All this time the crowd continues to grow as more and more folks showed up as the weather continue to get better but hotter.
When I got to the Gazebo area I found the entire section was cordoned off. Only people specifically on a list were invited in and that included the press.
This was a large blow to my plans as the primary thing I wanted to do is record the speeches and see what they were saying to answer the question: Were these guys actual Nazis, White supremacists et/al or were they just conservatives that because they supported Trump were considered all of these things?
Of course to the crowd none of this mattered. It was a matter of faith that these guys were Nazis but it seemed to me also a matter of faith that President Trump was also a Nazi/White Supremacist as was anyone who supported him and this was evident by some of the chants.
The attendees were very good at the whole repetitive chanting thing which requires very little thought.
I tried to find some other angles to get a better view of the bandstand but there was no place where I could get close enough and the fence lining it was filling up.
All of it seemed like overkill to me but the crowd seemed rather enjoying themselves as I walked through them.
The crowd itself consisted of the following groups:
Group one: The well meaning folks standing up as I mentioned at the start (worth interviewing)
Group two: The college kids finding something cool to do while establishing their liberal credentials (worth interviewing)
I’d say those two groups at least at the time I was there was a solid 1/3 or more of the crowd
Group three: The mayors folks also establishing both their anti-trump and liberal cred (spinning pols no interest to me)
Group four: The various activist groups there to push their specific causes (again professional protesters spinners mostly not worth my time)
This was I’d guess about half the crowd or slightly less. When you report they are very noticeable and you could see the polish in how they carried themselves and their organization.
Group five: The freaky guys like the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (drag queens dressed as nuns) and Vermin Supreme (folks looking for attention but not getting it from me)
And Group six: ANTIFA violent thugs who I had no intention of associating with.
Despite how different they were all of them were all united in two propositions:
Donald Trump is a bad evil racist.
If you voted for Trump you are as are as bad or worse than he is.
The effects of that unifying idea was interesting, particularly interesting how well the Masked Antifa crowd was being received by said crowd.
That really shocked me I figured either they had no idea the type of people ANTIFA was (groups 1 & 2) , pretended they didn’t (group 3) or didn’t care (groups 4 & 5).
It was around this time that everyone got an education concerning them from an event that was to me, the defining event of the time I was there.
I noticed people swarming and went to check it out and was disgusted by what I saw.
Two men one wearing a Trump, Make America Great Again and another wearing an Israeli flag being greeted by cries of “fascist go home” and quickly surrounded. At least of the organizers recognizing that the potential of something that would shatter the image they wanted portrayed to the press and to some of the more innocent people there who had no idea what company they were keeping so one of the folks who had been coaching some of the masked folks on one side and two members of the highly radical “veterans for peace” did their best to make sure nobody threw a punch but it didn’t stop people from getting in their faces and surrounding them.
I was completely beside myself over this first of all Donald Trump won the majority of voters in 29 states. If a man can’t safely walk through Boston Common with that banner no matter who is there that’s an incredible escalation as it the dubbing of any person supporting Trump a fascist or a Nazi.
But what set me off even more was the vitriol against they guy wearing the Israeli flag and the crowd joining in on the chants against him. The irony of people carrying anti-nazi signs and lowly proclaiming their opposition to hate driving out a person wearing the Star of David flag seems to have been completely lost on the people there and frankly I was outraged.
What was even more amazing were those calling em cowards those two guys were the bravest people there and I found myself wishing that I had a Trump banner or an Israeli flag and was standing with them.
To me this was a turning point, it is a moment that in my opinion will get replayed over and over in states that Trump carried and I can’t think of anything else that would infuriate and energize Trump supporters more.
On the bright side there were some signs of sanity and plurality in the crowd this one stood out.
But then again one would expect Quakers to be expressing this kind of thing.
By this time it was getting clear that unless I was willing and able to stay very late there wasn’t going to be much big news and I noticed people starting to leave so I started to leave but found some interesting sights like the Panda crowd that I saw earlier.
That the people signing were basically saying “take away my freedom” never seemed to occur to them.
There was Gary who had an interesting quest.
Four nice folks from Plymouth who seemed to have experience in this sort of thing without being professional activists.
A catholic poet and musician who bought my book.
and my favorite person Gary who while not liking the right had my favorite sign of the day as embraced his opinions while defending the 1st Amendment.
Finally a large crowd came by marching and I filmed them for five minutes.
then a few minutes more.
which couldn’t help but make me think of the famous scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian where the crowd chants in unison “yes we’re all individuals, we’ve all got to work it out for ourselves”
Finally it was time to leave and I headed for a T station as Park Station was closed. Because of this I missed some violence that took place later (conveniently after the regular people who might have objected had already left) but ran into the nice young ladies that I’ve already mentioned.
As for the object of these protests they became an afterthought but the real irony is, if there had been no protest they would have gotten even less attention but most of the people there seemed happy at what they felt they achieved and proud of their actions. What did they achieve? Well that’s an analysis post for later this week.
We’ll finish with a few assorted images and clips.
And My photo gallery follows my tipjar pitch
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