Members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front marched through downtown Boston Saturday afternoon, according to officials, while Boston police said they had a report that members of the group attacked a Black man near Copley Square.
Dressed in khaki pants, navy T-shirts, and wearing white neck gaiters covering most of their faces, sunglasses, and baseball caps, the marchers were videotaped in well-known spots along the Freedom Trail. Some of the participants held shields, carried Patriot Front flags, and a banner reading, “Reclaim America,” as they walked in step with a snare drum. The organization published four videos of the march on Telegram, a messaging app, with captions that said they were in Boston for the Fourth of July.
The demonstration allegedly turned violent in at least one instance, as a Black man reported to police that he was assaulted by members of the group who surrounded him while holding shields and knocked him to the ground, according to Boston Police Sergeant Detective John Boyle, the department’s head spokesman.
Boston police and the department’s Civil Rights Unit are investigating the incident, Boyle said.
Mayor Michelle Wu addressed the marchers on Twitter.
“To the white supremacists who ran through downtown today: When we march, we don’t hide our faces. Your hate is as cowardly as it is disgusting, and it goes against all that Boston stands for,” she wrote.
To the white supremacists who ran through downtown today:— Michelle Wu 吳弭 (@wutrain) July 2, 2022
When we march, we don’t hide our faces. Your hate is as cowardly as it is disgusting, and it goes against all that Boston stands for.
An hour later, Wu issued a statement, saying the “disgusting, hateful actions and words of white supremacist groups” are not welcome in Boston.
“Especially in a moment when so many of our rights are under attack, we will not normalize intimidation by bigots,” she said. “This weekend as we remember Boston’s legacy as the cradle of liberty, we celebrate the continued fight to expand those liberties for all and ensure that Boston will be a city for everyone.”
Writing on Twitter, Robert Trestan, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League in New England, said the group’s presence on the historic route on the Fourth of July weekend “is an insult to all who fought for freedom, equality, justice.”
A Boston police spokeswoman said the department received a report at about 12:30 p.m. about a group of demonstrators marching toward the Old State House and City Hall Plaza.
About an hour later, police responded to Dartmouth and Stuart streets for a report of an assault and battery. Officers located the victim, a 34-year-old Black man, who had lacerations on the ring finger of his right hand as well as on his head and left eyebrow, Boyle said.
He was taken by ambulance to Tufts Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, Boyle said.
On the way to the hospital, the man told police that he was walking down Dartmouth Street and took out his phone when “he found himself being shoved around in the middle of a group of individuals with shields and masks,” Boyle said.
The man told police that he yelled at the group of men to get away from him and then began swinging his arms to separate himself, at which point more members of the group “joined in, knocking him to the ground and continuing to assault him,” Boyle said.
“The group in question was later identified as the Patriot Front,” Boyle said.
Social media users published videos, some with a watermark bearing the address for the Patriot Front’s website, showing the group marching through Downtown Crossing and standing in front of Back Bay Station, the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, Haymarket, and the Old State House.
One video recorded in Copley Square and e-mailed to the Globe, showed a man in a white cowboy hat with his face uncovered leading the group in chants of, “Life! Liberty! Victory!” The woman recording the scene repeatedly asked, “Why don’t you show your faces? What are you afraid of?”
One man responded, “There’s a global pandemic.” Another pulled down his gaiter, puckered his lips in a kiss, and then walked away. Yet another said, “God bless, ma’am.”
The group later boarded an Orange Line train, getting off at Oak Grove Station in Malden. A State Police spokesman said troopers monitored the protest “like we do any other large demonstration” and he wasn’t aware of any arrests. A MBTA spokesman said there were no reports of the group disrupting T service.
The approximately 100 participants exited Oak Grove station at about 3:30 p.m. and headed for vehicles parked along Banks Place. The vehicles had licenses plates from Massachusetts and other states. including some from Texas.
A group of anti-fascist demonstrators holding signs confronted the group outside. The two sides exchanged shouts and photographed each other. Troopers intervened to separate the anti-fascist demonstrators and Patriot Front members.
One Patriot Front member struggled to climb into a minivan, and a person with him climbed into the vehicle through the trunk.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Patriot Front as a Texas-based white nationalist hate group that split from the fascist organization, Vanguard America, following the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
In June, police in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho arrested 31 men associated with the Patriot Front who were packed into a U-Haul truck, allegedly en route to cause a violent disruption at a Pride celebration. Authorities charged them with misdemeanor conspiracy to riot.
Between November 2017 and December, the ADL documented more than 600 incidents in Massachusetts involving Patriot Front. The incidents included the distribution of Patriot Front propaganda and acts of vandalism, ADL records show.
In the ADL’s latest report about the distribution of white supremacist propaganda, the organization said last year Patriot Front was responsible for more than 82 percent of incidents nationwide. Its propaganda efforts were most active, the ADL said, in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, and Maryland.
Patriot Front activities in 2021 included destroying Black Live Matters statues and murals, stealing and burning yard signs and flags celebrating diversity and the LGBTQ community, and distributing propaganda at Jewish institutions, the ADL said.