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Boston civil rights leaders denounce white supremacist group that marched through city

Local civil rights leaders on Sunday denounced the white supremacist group Patriot Front a day after about 100 members marched through Boston carrying shields, flags, and a banner reading, “Reclaim America.”

Tanisha Sullivan, director of the NAACP’s Boston chapter, said she is concerned about the growing presence of white supremacist groups across Massachusetts and demonstrating in Boston. She first learned about their demonstration Saturday through posts on social media as it was already happening, Sullivan said.

“My reaction was and still is deep concern, because this is now the third demonstration we’ve had within the city limits [this year],” said Sullivan, who has mounted a primary challenge against longtime Secretary of State William F. Galvin, a Democrat, in a telephone interview Sunday night, referring to previous demonstrations by white supremacist groups in Boston in January and on St. Patrick’s Day.


“That is unusual,” she continued. “And it’s an indication that there is something happening where these groups are feeling more empowered about being here in Boston.”

The demonstration Saturday turned violent when members of the group allegedly assaulted a 34-year-old Black man near the corner of Stuart and Dartmouth streets as they marched through Copley Square. The assault is under investigation by the Boston Police Department’s Civil Rights Unit. No arrests had been made as of Sunday evening, according to police.

The Rev. Kevin Peterson, founder and director of the New Democracy Coalition, will gather Black leaders for a news conference Monday near the Starbucks on the corner of Dartmouth and Stuart streets to denounce white supremacists and call on city leaders to do more to bring about racial reconciliation.

“It is imperative that we in the city of Boston respond to this demonstration with a commitment to focus on creating a Boston where everyone feels welcome and where the legacy of racism is finally erased,” Peterson said in an interview.


Peterson identified the victim in the alleged assault as artist and activist Charles Murrell and said he is helping Murrell as an advisor.

Murrell was taken to Tufts Medical Center on Saturday and told police that he was surrounded by Patriot Front members holding shields and was knocked to the ground as others joined in and continued assaulting him, police said.

“He is deeply distressed upon being attacked by a mob of racists,” Peterson said. “He was an innocent Black man traveling through the city of Boston, whereupon he was attacked and treated as if he was not human.”

The group made its way into Boston via the Orange Line from Malden. After the march, members of the group took the train back to Oak Grove and piled into a couple of dozen cars parked along the street and drove off.

No incidents on the T were reported, according to Transit Police.

Mayor Gary Christenson of Malden said he contacted Malden police Chief Glenn Cronin when he learned that the group had used the Oak Grove MBTA station to get into the city and would be returning. Malden police, State Police, and Transit Police were at the station when the group arrived.

“Fortunately, they all returned to their cars and left the area without incident,” Christenson and Cronin said in a joint statement Sunday. “We condemn the actions of this group, and their hate goes against everything our city stands for.”


Sullivan said she has questions about how the group made its way to Boston seemingly undetected.

“The fact they were able to ... move through Massachusetts and there was not any type of alert to local law enforcement, that’s a concern too,” she said. “This is a highly organized group, so how is it they were able to organize coming to Boston, getting to Massachusetts, parking their cars, and making their way to downtown Boston, and nobody knew? We’ve got questions that need to be answered.”

Peterson said he also has questions about how police responded to the situation.

“It is particularly appalling for Black people to know this group was largely unmonitored and for the most part allowed to roam freely,” he said. “This was a racist gang [that] appeared to be prepared to foment violence at any moment. The fact that our law enforcement agents were not present in a more substantive way raises deep concerns about how the city monitors racist elements that come into our city.

“Black people who are aware of what happened have to feel deeply concerned that their citizenship is undervalued and not protected in equal ways compared to whites,” he continued. “That’s clear and that’s problematic.”

Material from previous Globe stories was used in this report.

Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.