Additional thoughts on Straight Pride Parade, protests, and District Attorney

The Straight Pride Parade that took place two weeks ago inspired a wide variety of reactions from politicians, judges, law enforcement officials, and others. Here is a summary of these developments and my opinions on them:

Battle between Suffolk D.A. and judge

36 people who protested against the parade were arrested for crimes such as disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on police officers. For 20 arrestees charged only with the first two crimes, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office attempted to drop the charges, but Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard Sinnott ordered them to be arraigned anyways. This did not please Suffolk D.A. Rachael Rollins, who successfully petitioned the Supreme Judicial Court to overturn the judge’s decision. “By compelling arraignment in every case, the judge punished the exercise of individuals’ First Amendment right to protest,” Rollins said in a statement. “At my request, prosecutors used the discretion constitutionally allocated to the executive branch to triage cases and use our resources most effectively to protect public safety… For those people now tangled in the criminal justice system for exercising their right to free speech—many of whom had no prior criminal record—I will use the legal process to remedy the judge’s overstepping of his role.”

But from what I observed at the parade, the protesters were not merely exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech. They were attempting to prevent the parade marchers, whom they vastly outnumbered, from exercising theirs. Screaming at, swearing at, taunting, and insulting people for expressing a minority viewpoint is not free speech; it is bullying. Some protesters against the parade went so far as to openly advocate violence. According to the Boston Herald, an Antifa member named Jon Crowley said that violence was the only appropriate response to the parade. “We’re covered in black so when we attack these guys we can’t be prosecuted,” Crowley said. “They are fascists, 100%. How else are you going to get them to shut up?”

News flash: you do not have a right to get people to “shut up” when you disagree with their views. That’s the whole point of the First Amendment. People who attempt to silence and bully those with unpopular views should, when their actions rise to the level of breaking the law, be prosecuted as zealously and punished as severely as the law allows. Situations like what happened at the parade are the least appropriate situation for prosecutors to consider dropping charges. Also, contrary to what D.A. Rollins implied in her statement, public safety should not be the most important priority of the D.A.’s office; justice should be. And the most important part of justice is standing up for the rights of individuals (such as the parade marchers) against those who would trample on them (such as the jeering mobs of protesters).

John Ciccone, editor of South Boston Today, expressed his thoughts in an emailed statement with which I wholeheartedly agree: “It is the opinion of this newspaper and the overwhelming majority of readers heard from on this matter that the position and action Suffolk County DA Rollins has taken is absolutely wrong. In regard to the members of the so called ANTIFA organization, DA Rollins’ actions encourages the thug like violence of that group, who routinely have denied the rights of free speech and legal and peaceful protest of those they disagree with, not only in Boston during last weekend’s incidents, but in cities all across the nation. Those members of ANTIFA should be made an example of and be prosecuted to the full extend of what the law allows and if found guilty, given the maximum penalty. The message sent out should be loud and clear that they will not be allowed to come into Suffolk County and attack civilians and members of law enforcement without paying a heavy price for those actions.”

Slanderous statements by Pressley and Osacio-Cortez

Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Osacio-Cortez both expressed support for a fund to cover the legal costs of the arrested protesters In the process, they slandered the parade participants. Pressley called the parade “a racist, fascist demonstration.” Osacio-Cortez tweeted, “One way to support the local LGBTQ community impacted by Boston’s white supremacist parade? Contribute to the Bail Fund for the activists who put themselves on the line protecting the Boston community.”

These statements are factually incorrect. The parade was a Straight Pride Parade. How is that racist, fascist, or white supremacist? Whether someone is straight or gay doesn’t have anything to do with their race. There is a chance that some racist or fascist individuals may have participated in the parade (I did not see anything that made me suspect this), but that can be said of any parade or demonstration and does not have any implications for the message or meaning of the parade itself. Also, it is ridiculous to say that the thousands of protesters who insulted and attacked a small parade were “protecting the Boston community.” What does Osacio-Cortez think the protesters were protecting Boston from? A small group of people expressing pride in being straight does not negatively impact anyone in any way. Also, this small group of people is part of the Boston community just as much as the LGBTQ community is. For those with majority views to verbally and physically beat up on an unpopular minority does not constitute “protecting” anyone.

The organizers of the Straight Pride Parade should sue Pressley and Osacio-Cortez for defemation for these preposterous statements.

City Council President questions why parade was allowed

Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell went so far as to question whether the parade should even have been allowed. “While I am a firm believer in free speech, I’m not okay with wasting tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for a group to come into Boston from out of state to create chaos and spread hate,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I would have preferred our taxpayer dollars be spent on community policing and violence prevention in our neighborhoods. This provides us with an opportunity to review our permitting process, especially with respect to organizations that are pretending to march under the guise of free speech but instead marching to promote hate, racism and bigotry, and thus incite violence.”

First of all, some of Campbell’s claims are factually incorrect. The parade was not spreading hate or creating chaos; it was the counter-protesters who did both those things. Additionally, there is no evidence that the aim of the parade was to promote hate, racism, or bigotry, or to incite violence. But even if these things were true, it would not give Campbell the right to deny the marchers the ability to express their views. The political views of a group should have no impact on the decision of whether or not to grant them a permit. The Constitution gives everyone the right to freedom of speech, not only people whose opinions Andrea Campbell happens to agree with. Plus, I would not consider protecting an unpopular minority from a bullying majority to be a waste of taxpayer dollars. The government does not get to take away people’s First Amendment rights simply because the City Council president believes that their police protection isn’t the best use of tax money.

Boston Police Commissioner’s statement

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross issued a statement defending his officers’ handling of the parade and protests. “I could not be more proud or impressed with the high levels of restraint and professionalism displayed by my officers tasked with safeguarding and protecting all who either attended, participated or protested at the parade,” Gross said. “As we saw along the parade route, there were many who chose to voice their objections to those who chose to participate in the Straight Pride Parade. While most expressed those objections peacefully, not everybody did. And nobody can attest to that fact more so than my officers who found themselves on the receiving end of an unending stream of verbal taunts, jeers, profanities, obscenities and physical assaults directed towards them throughout the course of the day. Clearly, not everybody who attended the parade was there to peacefully and lawfully exercise their First Amendment Rights… The Boston Police Department has and will continue to protect the freedoms and rights of all people, regardless of political leanings or personal points of view, to lawfully and peacefully express their First Amendment Rights.”

Having witnessed the parade and protests first-hand, I can confirm that Gross’s description of what the cops faced was 100% accurate. As far as I could observe, none of the people marching in or supporting the Straight Pride Parade did anything hateful, insulting, or offensive. They were simply expressing their pride and, in some cases, their support for Donald Trump’s reelection. The protesters, on the other hand, appeared to be there primarily to personally insult, ridicule, swear at, scream at, make profane gestures at, express their hatred for, and occasionally physically assault not only the parade marchers but also the cops who were not expressing any political views but simply doing their jobs. The fact that the protesters outnumbered the parade supporters but still felt the need to act in such a mean and nasty way makes their actions all the more cowardly and dishonorable.