Police made two arrests after a right-wing rally and a left-wing counterprotest faced off in Copley Square Sunday afternoon, with one group waving Trump flags and another burning an effigy of the president.
About 40 people attended the Super Happy Fun America rally, which was billed as a “peaceful protest against Democrat violence." Participants, many of whom weren’t wearing face coverings, were separated from about 100 counterprotesters by barricades and police officers.
The counterprotesters, mostly mask-wearing young people, voiced disdain for the president and for white supremacy, some dancing on the sidewalk while making profane gestures at the rally across the street. On a few occasions, small groups pulled apart temporary barriers and clashed with police officers in scuffles.
Two men from Boston — Gregory Abrams, 31, and Niam Ball, 25 — were arrested, according to Officer James Moccia, a Boston Police Department spokesman. Abrams is facing charges of assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace; the charges against Ball were not immediately available.
Super Happy Fun America, which has ties to far-right politics, organized a straight pride parade last year that critics said encouraged discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. A Super Happy Fun America event over the summer drew a small group of white supremacists, though they were condemned by rally organizers.
John Hugo, the tricorn hat-wearing organizer of Sunday’s rally, told his group they had gathered to “push back against the violence that is engulfing this country.”
He also rattled off a list of figures he called “enemies," including the news media, Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, social media companies, and liberal donor and philanthropist George Soros.
“We need law and order," he said, adding later, “This is a call to arms."
The left-wing and right-wing activists denounced each other, with Hugo calling counterprotesters “virtue-signaling white kids” and suggesting they were being paid to protest. Counterprotesters called his group “white supremacists.”
Before the rally began, the groups were chanting at one another across Dartmouth Street. A cry of “Four more years!” from rally-goers was met with shouts of “[Expletive] Trump!”
While counterprotesters marched around banging drums to drown out the chants of rally-goers, Super Happy Fun America speakers mocked and criticized their behavior.
As counter-demonstrators burned a flag along with an effigy of the president, a speaker at the right-wing rally said, “We wave the American flag, and they burn it.”
And as counterprotesters clashed with police after dragging temporary barriers out of place, speakers warned of chaos and violence in the country.
Some participants in the counterprotest denounced the use of physical force.
“We’re not here to promote any violence,” said Ashawn Dabney-Small, 18, a Boston City Council candidate from Dorchester who joined counter-demonstrators. “We’re promoting peace and equality.”
He called “Go home" through a megaphone, drawing out the vowels like a soccer announcer calling a goal. He said the crowd of Super Happy Fun America supporters that had gathered was there to “spew hate. It’s very sad to see.”
A short distance away from where the two groups squared off, a counterprotester applauded the “civil conversation” he was having with Todd Kimball, 48, of Swansea, who was displaying a “thin blue line” flag.
But when police suddenly came between them, forcing the counterprotester to the other side of a fence, which led to him falling down, their conversation broke down.
Other activists swarmed the area, hurling insults at Kimball and the counterprotester, who moments earlier had commented on his rapport with Kimball, got back up, and held a megaphone in his face.
“Get your racist ass out of here!” he shouted.
Though several Super Happy Fun America speakers addressed only their group and said counterprotesters were promoting violence, at least one tried to address the leftists directly, saying: “I have no desire to fight my brothers and sisters. We want the same things you do.”
Counterprotesters made his words all but inaudible as the speaker appeared to grow choked up and said, “I beg you, let us not go down the path of destruction. Let us be Americans.”
Lucas Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.