Boston DSA Statement on the Events Surrounding the Straight Pride Parade

Originally written and posted by the Direct Action, De-escalation, and Security Committee of Boston DSA (DADS) September 30, 2019. Endorsed by the DSA National Political Committee.

On Saturday, August 31st, around 100 far-right activists marched through downtown Boston, flanked by hundreds of police, carrying a message of hatred and division. 

Their “Straight Pride Parade,” a clear act of intimidation against the LGBTQ+ community, was organized by activists with well-documented involvement in violent “alt-right” and white power organizations like the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, and the American Guard. Predictably, despite the organizers’ claims that the event would not be anti-gay, the event’s speakers and attendees revealed the true meaning of “Straight Pride” by spewing noxious homophobic, transphobic, racist, and anti-Semitic bile.

Their bigotry did not go unchallenged. Boston DSA was part of a vibrant coalition of over a thousand anti-fascist demonstrators reflecting the diversity of local LGBTQ+ people and their friends and loved ones. Counter-protesters vastly outnumbered the Straight Pride Parade participants, an important political accomplishment in a time when the far right is aggressively attempting to build their movement and march in cities across the U.S. and around the world.

However, the Straight Pride marchers had some very powerful allies: hundreds of Boston-area police. In what can only be described as a police riot, the cops attacked counter-demonstrators, including DSA members, with pepper spray, bikes, and fists. Seemingly at random, they dragged people out from behind barricades set up by the police themselves and beat others who were trapped against barriers or complying with orders to back up. As the police faithfully carried out their task of shielding the far right from vigorous protest, their posture towards counter-protesters was one of utter hostility and malice.

The brutality of the police on August 31 is a continuation of their long-standing and defining role as instruments of violent repression towards people of color, LGBTQ+ people, the poor, and all those resisting white supremacy, capitalist depredations, and other facets of oppression. This bloody history never ended. In early August, for example, Boston police descended on dozens of unhoused people staying near Boston Medical Center, an area where many seek treatment for opioid addiction. Over two nights, police arrested 34 people and loaded the belongings – including wheelchairs – of many others into a garbage truck, where they were crushed. This raid, part of “Operation Clean Sweep,” was likely a mass reprisal against hundreds of unrelated people for a fight between a corrections officer and a small group of individuals earlier in the week.

For many, the fallout of the police violence on the 31st is ongoing – 34 counter-protesters, medics, and independent journalists were detained on allegations of disorderly conduct or resisting arrest. In an equally outrageous and unprecedented development, Judge Richard Sinnott, a Charlie Baker appointee with a reputation for harsh and vindictive treatment of poor defendants of color, turned down a motion from prosecutors to dismiss the charges against most of the arraigned counter-protesters. The next day, he ordered lead defense lawyer Susan Church of the National Lawyers’ Guild to be held in contempt of court as she attempted to read case law outlining the illegality of his actions. Judge Sinnott’s actions are an attempt to criminalize not just protesting the far right, but also defending the rights of those arrested for doing so.

These actions by the police and Judge Sinnott affirm the fundamentally repressive nature of the criminal justice system, and represent nothing less than an attempt to intimidate people out of challenging the far right. We will not be intimidated, and we will not allow this flagrant attack on anti-fascism and the communities it seeks to protect to go unchallenged.

As a national organization, DSA reaffirms its solidarity with all those resisting the far right in the era of Trump and with the LBGTQ+ people and many others targeted by its representatives on the streets and in the halls of power. We condemn the endemic violence of the police and criminal justice system and the criminalization of dissent.

To criminalize anti-fascist demonstrations is to further imperil the communities fascists seek to destroy. Anti-fascism is not a crime. It is a political and moral obligation for socialists and, indeed, anyone who supports liberation and equality for all people. 

We demand the charges against all 34 counter-protesters, medics, and journalists be immediately dropped, and their records expunged. Further, we demand that Captain Jack Danilecki be immediately fired by the Boston Police Department, and demand that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office press charges against him for his violent, unprovoked, and illegal actions on August 31st.