Since as many as 100 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front marched through downtown Boston on Saturday, allegedly assaulting a Black man along the way, there has been a steady stream of disavowals from Mayor Michelle Wu, civil rights activists, and other leaders.
Wu was quick to address the marchers Saturday, calling their hate “cowardly” and “disgusting” on Twitter.
Notching up the response another level, Wu on Tuesday will meet with law enforcement officials, including US Attorney Rachael Rollins, behind closed doors at Boston police headquarters to discuss white supremacist activity in the region.
Wu will speak to the media after the briefing, which also will be attended by Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory Long, who serves as acting commissioner, as well as community leaders and other elected officials.
At a Fourth of July speech at Faneuil Hall Monday morning, Wu again condemned the group, saying, “We won’t let any bigots intimidate us in our work to build a city for everyone.”
The marchers on Saturday were dressed alike in khaki pants and navy T-shirts, with their faces covered by white neck gaiters, sunglasses, and baseball caps as they walked in step with a snare drum. Some held shields; others carried Patriot Front flags and a banner that said: “Reclaim America.”
The demonstration turned violent when members of the group allegedly assaulted a 34-year-old Black man 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 Monday, according to police.
Investigators have not yet determined whether the white supremacists are from Massachusetts or out of state. “That’s all part of the investigation,” said police spokesman Sergeant Detective John Boyle.
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.
When the group left Boston Saturday they boarded an Orange Line train and got off at Oak Grove Station in Malden. There they headed for vehicles with licenses plates from Massachusetts, Texas, and other states.
Between November 2017 and December, the Anti-Defamation League documented more than 600 incidents in Massachusetts involving Patriot Front, including distribution of Patriot Front propaganda and acts of vandalism.
In the ADL’s latest report about the distribution of white supremacist propaganda, the organization said that 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.
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 an LGBTQ+ Pride celebration. Authorities charged them with misdemeanor conspiracy to riot.
Local Black leaders gathered on the steps of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square Monday to denounce Patriot Front.
Led by the Rev. Kevin Peterson, the community leaders condemned the organization and asked city and state officials to show their support for antiracist policies and the creation of a city race commission.
“We call on [Wu] to move beyond symbols, rhetoric, and words that may soothe our hearts, and address this racism with substantive policies,” said Peterson, the founder and director of the New Democracy Coalition.