– Joey P
There was a police riot at the Straight Pride Parade.
Straight Pride is Hate Pride was a peaceful protest marred by repeated attempts by the police to turn it into a riot, and when they failed, they rioted themselves. We don’t have a full accounting of everything the police did, but we know for certain that they assaulted dozens with fists, knees and chemical weapons. The Boston Police broke bones and busted heads. And, as if that wasn’t enough, they arrested 34 counter protesters, and leaned on local judges to charge arrestees with spurious crimes over the head of the district attorney.
I myself was pepper sprayed by Captain John Danilecki (as shown in the image below), a captain of the Boston bike squad well known for gratuitous use of chemical weapons and the instigator of the overwhelming majority of violence at the Straight Pride Parade.
Others have been less lucky, but I’ll get to that.
First, I need to give some background. The Straight Pride Parade was the brainchild of Resist Marxism, a local fascist group that’s been trying to build an extreme right wing coalition in the northeast for a few years now. They have tried to build ties with traditional Republicans while also allying with neo-Nazis such as Patriot Front and the Patriot Saints. They have attempted to disrupt and infiltrate DSA events. And they have hosted other events, at least two of which degenerated into riots themselves (their August and October 2018 rallies in Providence, Rhode Island). The Straight Pride Parade was an attempt to rebrand: they are calling themselves Super Happy Fun America now, and Straight Pride went viral as a meme.
The day of the parade I arrived in downtown Boston early. I felt generally good. My main worry, a neo-Nazi biker gang that was supposed to be “security” for the Straight Pride Parade, had neutralized itself in some arcane fascist drama. Even hours before the parade, downtown Boston was clogged with ludicrous numbers of cops. They came from every municipality in the eastern side of the Commonwealth, from Quincy and Cambridge and Somerville and even as far away as Lowell. I had assumed there was going to be a large police presence -his event got a lot of press. This wasn’t too surprising but it was disheartening to see groups of state troopers in body armor and riot gear in groups that dwarfed the typical police presence at protests, but who also were much smaller than the armies of local cops running around roughly unarmored.
In retrospect, this was a red flag. The Boston Police had absolutely no idea what they were dealing with. Somehow they had come to the belief that an army of A.N.T.I.F.A. Super Soldier Terrorists had come to Boston to raze the city to the ground and drown everyone in poison, concrete milkshakes. Had they paid any attention to the groups hosting the protests (Fight Supremacy at Government Center earlier in the day, and Solidarity Against Hate-Boston for directly at the time of the parade) at all and looked at their previous records in these kinds of mass rallies, they would have had to admit that this was plainly ridiculous. We are definitely antifascists aka antifa, but popular understanding of antifa has been marred by misinformation in liberal media and deliberate counterfactual information by right wingers.
I went over to the site of Solidarity Against Hate’s protest early. I was one of the first people to arrive. The police had set up metal barricades all along the parade route. Up Boylston Street there’s a natural median, so they had placed their barricades alongside that, presumably to separate us from the parade, which would proceed up the other side of Boylston Street. There were already police massed around the corner very conspicuously.
People were streaming into the protest: very quickly we were dozens, then over a hundred. It was increasingly obvious that the separations on the Boston Public Garden were set up so that the police could easily block off the Public Garden and split the mass of the protest, so we moved onto the sidewalk. Small groups of police made maneuvers into and around the public garden. It raised the anxiety of the crowd, but quickly we outnumbered even this army of police.
Suddenly a group of police pushed past their barricades, grabbed a young college-age girl and dragged her back to where the rest of the police were. They searched her bag and found a megaphone. A couple days earlier, the Boston police had published an extensive list of items banned for the duration of the event, among them drones, firearms, bicycles, flag poles and propane grills. Megaphones were not on the verboten list. The police still stole it from her, but they pushed her back into the main bulk of our crowd. She was shaken up and traumatized. I tried to piece together why they had singled her out for this abuse. There were other people around holding megaphones openly (and she hadn’t even taken hers out of her bag yet). This person had several different intersections of identity which would likely make her a target, and it’s hard to ascertain exactly why police targeted her.
Soon after this troubling incident, the crowd grew a little too unmanageable on the sidewalk. We had spilled out onto the street a little bit up to this point, but by now we were hundreds strong and more people were coming all the time. The crowd stepped out into the street. The police had obviously divided the street to keep us separated from the parade. There was no other logical reason to place the barricade where they did if this was not the case. Immediately the police lost their shit. They rushed past their barricades and pushed the crowd back onto the sidewalk. Evidently at this point there was the first arrest of the day, but the scene was chaotic and I was fairly far up the street. This gives a little insight into what the Boston Police must have been thinking. The first arrest was one of the people wearing a red bandana, identified by the hosts of the protest as the security team.
Soon after this they targeted people dressed in John Brown Gun Club t-shirts, several of whom the police just roughed up and others they arrested. The John Brown Gun Club (JBGC) is a leftist organization dedicated to teaching gun safety. They’re not a gang of Blanquist insurrectionary terrorists. They have not been linked to any acts of violence that I’ve ever heard of. When groups have shown up for Resist Marxism actions kitted out in National Rifle Association gear, they have never been molested in any way, let alone like this. But the police were terrified. Their eyes were pointed sharply at anyone who looked the least bit threatening.
I got a better look at the next confrontation. A street medic saw the growing police terror and mixed up some antacid. Antacid is one of the things used to treat chemical burns, especially from pepper spray, which may have been deployed on JBGC, although I didn’t have a very good look at that. The police pushed past their barricades, forced their way through the crowd and tackled the street medic. They forced him to the ground and stomped on him. I pushed myself to the front of the cop line to put myself between these out-of-control cops and more vulnerable people. I made eye contact with the cop in the line immediately in front of me. I asked him if he was proud to be protecting Nazis. The look in his eyes was pure terror. I’ve never seen someone so scared in all my life–even that traumatized kid they stole the megaphone from didn’t look as scared as this cop. He grabbed his billy club. Was he about to beat the shit out of me? I was fairly certain I was about to be arrested. The crowd began to chant “Let him go! Let him go! Let him go!” as the police dragged the medic back behind their line. The cop I made eye contact with stayed frozen, locked eyes with me, until another cop tapped his shoulder and they pulled him back behind the barricades.
This incident is likely the inspiration for the statement from the police union about “chemical milkshakes”, a ludicrous conspiracy theory pushed by the Portland Oregon police department and right-wing grifter Andy Ngo. Their targeting of the security team, medics and John Brown people had some unsettling tactical implications. If I were trying to turn a peaceful rally into a violent mass riot, this is exactly what I would do. Why you would want this I cannot fathom; perhaps to inspire demands from the police union for even more weapons and a mandate to crush any form of protest they do not like.
That’s pretty much how it went for a while. Our crowd expanded, just about filling from Arlington Station to Boylston on the sidewalk at the side of the Public Garden. The police randomly assaulted people for arcane reasons that could only make sense to a mind utterly suffused with terror.
Eventually the Straight Pride Parade began.
It was the most pathetic thing in the entire universe. How anyone involved in any capacity, from the fascist principals to the simple gormless Pepes walking along, could feel any pride is a mystery. Mostly, the parade was an army of police positioned to guard the small cadre of fascist dipshits and other weird losers they had attracted to their cause. The one float was the “Trump 2020 Unity Bridge.” Because Trump is famous for his slogan “Build the Bridge! Build the Bridge!” But at least that somewhat resembled a parade float. There was also a minivan with letter pages taped up on the side with messages such as “Blue Lives Matter” and “Trump 2020” scrawled on in blue pen. The joke is that they’re incompetent. Get it?
And they were followed by their supporters. Most of them weren’t really noteworthy, just bland right-wing weirdos, although the two morlocks dolled up like Pepe the frog, with only one Sargon of Akkad anime head pillow between them, deserve special note (presumably they couldn’t afford a full anime body pillow). They drove eight hours from Pennsylvania to attend the parade. Their makeup was done up about as competently as I painted my Warhammer figures at age 10.
What the hell is wrong with those people?
At the back of the parade was a couple MBTA buses stuffed with state police in full tactical body armor.
The police violence intensified. I got separated from the person I came with during the chaos. I fell in with a group of street medics treating a friend who had been pepper sprayed twice. I followed the medics as they made their way to Boston City Hall. By this time the Straight Pride Parade had reached its destination and their rally began. As we neared City Hall Plaza, we saw random groups of assholes leaving the rally. They seemed bored. This wasn’t the spectacle they had hoped for. There were ample protesters around, but even without the sharp eyes of the army of police there was no violence. If there was ever any possibility of violence it would have happened at this point. There was none.
Once I reached the back of City Hall (where the police had led our protest) I found a fairly boring, staid affair. I found a few of my friends and I hung around with them. In the weeks leading up to the rally, Super Happy Fun America (SHFA) had bragged endlessly about their sound system. They said it was going to blow us out of the water and permanently damage our hearing. Even without our flotilla of whistles and vuvuzelas, we could barely hear their sound system. Even SHFA seemed to realize this. I’m pretty sure Samson Racioppi, a long time organizer for Resist Marxism and one of the main planners of the Straight Pride Parade, apologized, although it was hard to make out over the (short) distance.
The Straight Pride speaking schedule went on. I could only really pick up bits and pieces. A couple of the speakers seemed to say some very racist and homophobic things, which I would expect from a Resist Marxism rally, but I can’t speak strongly to this, only being able to pick out every third or fifth word. But it’s interesting to note that SHFA crowed endlessly about how the Straight Pride Parade was not homophobic.
This part of the rally was actually fairly nice. I milled around. I met with some old friends I hadn’t seen in many years. I met Vermin Supreme. He was pleasantly bizarre.
The protest was calm. People leaving the Straight Pride rally even went through the crowd and they weren’t even yelled at, let alone assaulted. Whatever idiotic fear the police had that we were violent A.N.T.I.F.A. terrorists was ridiculous.
There were a few weirdos antagonizing the crowd. Blaze Media, the outfit founded by Glenn Beck, had a camera crew in attendance. They were trying to get “gotcha” interviews and footage of scary blue-haired girls. Adam Kokesh, a mediocre knockoff of banned YouTube dipshit Baked Alaska, was trying to give out Free Hugs for some reason and getting yelled at. A weird libertarian kid with body armor and a GoPro strapped to his head was running around getting footage.
It was calm and slowly winding down. Resist Marxism ran over their time limit but ended their rally soon after 4:00pm. If the police had been calm and patient, we would have gotten bored and gone home. If the police actually wanted to maintain peace and order, they would have just waited. Instead, the police started their own riot.
I was getting ready to leave myself when a line of motorcycle cops pushed up the road and parked just in the back of the protest. I’ve been at a lot of protests, and this set off the alarm bells in my head. The only reason to do this is to be provocative. They reinvigorated a waning crowd, who formed a line in front of the motorcycles. Then the bike cops came through and placed their bikes in front of the motorcycles like a Roman shield wall.
No reasonable person would think for a second this was a workable method of dispersing the crowd. One of the security team tried to disperse the protesters, he knew what was coming, but the protesters were amped up on adrenaline from the police provocation. The bike cops swung their bikes like melee weapons at the front line of protesters. The protestors were stunned. The police obviously wanted us to disperse, but the protesters were packed in too tight to move. One kid was pulled over the bike line, slapped around and arrested.
Then, Captain Jack Danilecki sprayed down the front row of the crowd.
In the time it took for this to happen the back lines of the protesters ran for it and opened up enough space for the front lines to move. Most of them bolted back to an area where street medics were hanging out, immediately in front of where Boston Emergency Services were stationed. One of the front lines, however, fell on the ground, writhing and moaning in terrible pain. They could not move. A couple medics bolted toward him. But also the cop that started the pepper spraying was stomping toward them. My body went into autopilot. I put myself between the injured person and Captain Jack Danilecki.
He said “Move.”
I said “No.”
He pulled out his pepper spray and held it at his hip, making sure I saw it. I remained still.
He sprayed me from maybe six inches away. The pepper spray got in my eyes, nose and mouth. My face erupted in pain.
Again Captain Jack said “Move.”
Again I said, “No.”
I thought for certain I was about to be tackled to the ground and my head stomped by the Boston Police. That didn’t happen. I opened my eyes a crack, just for a second. Stinging pain. Danilecki was gone.
Medics quickly arrived to carry the injured person behind me to relative safety. I retreated back to the medic area and got my eyes flushed out. Another interesting wrinkle here is that Boston’s Emergency Services had a few paramedic teams hanging out. They didn’t treat anybody–it was just street medics treating the injured.
The police kept pushing forward, beating people with their bikes and pepper spraying them and arresting the ones that fell. After a brief respite they reached the medic area and pushed us back. There hadn’t been any fight in our protest from the beginning, so we just hobbled further back.
At this point Vermin Supreme’s pal Rod Webber charged up to the police to question them about what they just did. They chased him to the exact site of the Boston Massacre, where they beat him up and arrested him. Vermin came over to try and deescalate the situation, which only led to the police chasing him. He ducked behind a corner, dropped his boot and tutu, and emerged. The police didn’t recognize him and continued past.
The rally was really over now. My face and chest were burning like fuck, even after being washed out. I hobbled home and took a cold shower. But there was still work to be done. If you want to build a better world, you need to be there when bad things are going down. So, once I had mitigated my chemical burn, I set back out to work jail support.
The nuts and bolts of jail support are complicated and vary from district to district. The job is to make sure arrested people have bail, a ride home and, very importantly, emotional support. Actually finding out where they are being held is often tricky. And it’s nice to have snacks ready for them upon release. But the best part is cheering for them as they get out of jail. I know from experience how powerful this can be. There were 34 comrades arrested in total at the protest along with two fascists (who we weren’t particularly worried about supporting). The arrestees were spread all across the city, from East Boston to Roslindale. I went to the jail not too far from Government Center and got the fun of reliving my assault just a few hours earlier.
I met a few new comrades, some young and some old, all with stories of police brutality and resistance. An old friend of mine got to show Rod Webber the incredible stream he accidentally made of his own arrest.
But even taking the arrested home wasn’t the end of the whole affair. There was still court to worry about. That story is wild and still unfolding. A story for another time, most likely.
I spent the next couple days talking to journalists and going over footage of the day’s events. A few others and I were pretty shocked to realize how much of the day’s violence was directly instigated by Captain Jack Danilecki. But make no mistake, all the other cops were perfectly happy to go along with pepper-spray-mad Captain Jack on his mission to defeat the A.N.T.I.F.A. George Soros terrorists.
Boston’s police have always been bad, going back to well before I was born. They’ve never been friends or allies. They spent the month of August assaulting homeless people in the city core and destroying their private property, including one person’s wheelchair. Captain Jack couldn’t possibly be doing all of that on his own. And they make no effort to even pretend they want to keep Boston’s communities of color safe. They care about beating up queer folk and imaginary threats.
The DSA is already dedicated to the abolition of the police and prison system. Here in Boston, this work is entering a new, dangerous phase. Boston police have grown more aggressive to peaceful protest over the last few months, violently busting up a pro-choice protest of an anti-choice fundraiser. Given the brutality of the American government on the national scale, with ICE feeding children into concentration camps, the federal government enacting disaster capitalism over it’s colony of Puerto Rico and the roadblocks it threw up to accepting hurricane refugees from the Bahamas, we can expect the brutality of the government to increase even further. Economic signs point toward a recession soon and we’re already in the throes of growing climate catastrophe. The threat posed by the state is growing.
The Boston Police and Captain Jack Danilecki thought they could cow us into silence. They thought we were as afraid as they are. We are not. We are resolute, we are pissed, and we are just getting started.