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Anti-hate group and Straight Pride organizers hold dueling protests

Dueling protests were held outside Boston Police headquarters in Roxbury as people from Super Happy Fun America held a pro-police rally as others counter-demonstrated. A counterprotestor yelled as Boston Police kept between them and the Super Happy Fun America people (rear).
Dueling protests were held outside Boston Police headquarters in Roxbury as people from Super Happy Fun America held a pro-police rally as others counter-demonstrated. A counterprotestor yelled as Boston Police kept between them and the Super Happy Fun America people (rear).John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Demonstrators with Super Happy Fun America, the group behind the Straight Pride Parade in Boston last year, faced off against counterprotesters Saturday outside the city’s police headquarters.

A few dozen people attended Super Happy Fun America’s “Back the Blue” rally to support law enforcement, while the opposing group, Solidarity Against Hate Boston, drew more than 100 to challenge the rally as having ties with far-right figures.

There were no arrests and no injuries during the competing protests, said Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a spokesman for Boston police.

“The police department was there to keep the public safe and allow both groups to express their First Amendment freedom of speech,” Boyle said in an interview.

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The protests began around 11 a.m. at the corner of Tremont and Ruggles streets, and ended at about 1 p.m., when the demonstrators with Super Happy Fun America left the area.

Demonstrators for the “Back the Blue” group gathered on the sidewalk outside the building, chanting, “Blue lives matter.”

Some of them held American flags with a blue stripe across them, while others held signs with slogans in support of President Trump.

A few feet away, beyond a group of officers who used their bicycles to form a barrier, the group of more than 100 counterprotesters chanted, “immigrants’ lives are under attack; what do we do? Stand up, fight back," as a small brass band played.

Officers kept the groups apart and blocked access to police headquarters with metal barricades that lined the sidewalk.

Police stood between the Super Happy Fun America people and counter protestors.
Police stood between the Super Happy Fun America people and counter protestors. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

In August, Super Happy Fun America organized the Straight Pride Parade that was blasted as an affront meant to stoke discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Leaders of the organization have said they are not bigoted.

The group’s president, John Hugo, said Saturday’s rally was meant to support local police, as well as officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Trump administration recently announced it would deploy ICE officers, including special tactical teams, to sanctuary cities like Boston to enforce immigration law.

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“We’re here to say thank you to the thin blue line that protects us all,” Hugo said in an interview.

Chau Kelley, 46, of Hooksett, N.H., who was among protesters in the “Back the Blue” rally, said she is with a group of Vietnamese-Americans who support Trump.

“We are pro-Americans, we are here to support our police officers, the men and women in the blue uniforms," Kelley said in an interview. "They put their lives on the line every day.”

Counter demonstrators gathered outside Boston Police headquarters.
Counter demonstrators gathered outside Boston Police headquarters. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Elizabeth Rucker, 29, a spokeswoman for Solidarity Against Hate Boston, said the counterprotest was meant to expose the Super Happy Fun America organizers as “white supremacists and fascists.”

“They have come with all of their white supremacist connections here in Boston, and we say no,” Rucker said in an interview.

She also criticized Boston police’s handling of protesters during the Straight Pride parade, in which officers grappled with some of the demonstrators and used pepper spray against the crowd.

Among the counterprotesters Saturday was 51-year-old Heidi Burgiel of Somerville, who said she opposes the Trump administration’s actions against sanctuary cities.

She recited part of the Declaration of Independence from memory, and had written a slogan from the Pledge of Allegiance on her sign: “Liberty and Justice for All.”

“It’s what this country was founded on," Burgiel said. "I want this country to live up to its ideals, and I don’t see that happening.”

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John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.