Two days after allegedly brawling with a counter-protester outside a “drag queen story hour” event in Jamaica Plain, the leader of a neo-Nazi group on on Monday pleaded not guilty to public fighting.
Christopher R. Hood Jr., 23, was released on personal recognizance but Judge Kathleen M. Coffey warned him that additional arrests could land him in jail. Hood has previously been arrested twice in Boston, although in both cases the charges were dismissed.
Hood, who lives in Pepperell, led a demonstration of roughly a dozen masked men outside the Loring Greenough House, where families gathered Saturday morning for the children’s story hour, police said. The Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center have classified Hood’s group, the Nationalist Social Club 131 or NSC-131, as a neo-Nazi organization.
The demonstrators chanted “NSC-131″ and yelled anti-pedophile slogans until the event ended, according to police reports and a witness.
Most of the group dispersed, but several NSC-131 members began “trading insults” with a group of counter-protesters who had gathered on the opposite side of South Street, police said. As both groups moved down the road, screaming threats and profanities at each other, Hood and a 27-year old counter-protester began to fight, falling to the ground and drawing several members of each group into the fray until police broke up the skirmish.
But on Monday, prosecutors dropped the charges against the 27-year-old and a second counter-protester who was arrested Saturday, drawing applause from their supporters in West Roxbury Municipal Court.
“Our actions in these cases are consistent with our approach to other individuals with no or minor records who are charged with similar low-level offenses,” said James Borghesani, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden.
During Hood’s arraignment, Assistant District Attorney Dana Pierce said prosecutors have previously tried to divert Hood from prosecution and given him multiple “second chances, but his behavior has escalated and become increasingly violent.”
Simon Gilk, a lawyer who represented Hood in court, said the diversion efforts were an “attempt to divert him from the political views he holds.”
“Not everyone will agree with his messages, not everyone will agree with his views, however, [Hood] does have rights ... that must be respected,” Gilk said.
The weekend demonstration marked the second time this month that a sizable group of extremists has staged a public demonstration in Boston. On July 2, about 100 members of Patriot Front marched through the city’s downtown, surprising law enforcement officials, who said they had no advance warning.
On Saturday, Mayor Michelle Wu’s office said the Police Department’s civil rights unit is investigating NSC-131′s demonstration as a possible “targeting of the LGBTQ community.”
”It’s no coincidence that these cowardly groups from outside our city continue to target Boston as we showcase how representative leadership, empowered communities, and bold policies can have immediate impact,” she wrote in a statement.
Diane W. Spears, president of the Loring Greenough House’s board of directors, said police had warned that the drag queen event could be targeted, prompting organizers to postpone the event until Saturday.
In 2019, police arrested Hood and two others in East Boston after they were allegedly caught distributing Patriot Front propaganda. Hood was arrested again this March when masked demonstrators wearing NSC-131 attire displayed a banner that read, “Keep Boston Irish” during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston.
NSC-131 has a presence throughout New England, with chapters in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Last month, police in East Providence, R.I., stopped five men affiliated with NSC-131 on the grounds of the Gordon School. Two of the men refused to identify themselves and were arrested, police said. Earlier this month, the group distributed recruitment fliers in Kittery, Maine.
Outside the courthouse on Monday, a crowd of activists rallied to demand that charges against the two counter-protesters be dropped.
“It’s dangerous when organized fascists like these white supremacist groups are showing up,” said Susan Wong, who came from Newton to participate in the rally. “They’re the modern version of the KKK. ... They may seem small, but I think it’s a real threat to be taken” seriously.
One person, identified in court records as Roderick Webber, 48, of Brighton, was arrested for allegedly striking Boston police Captain John Hughes on the steps of the courthouse.
Webber, who was later released on personal recognizance after pleading not guilty to assault and battery and disorderly conduct, stepped in front of the NSC-131 members as they entered the courthouse and was knocked to the ground. Webber then raced to the courthouse entrance, where he was confronted by police and knocked back. When he tried to approach police again, he was taken into custody.
As Hood left the courthouse, protesters shouted expletives at him as they followed him to his car.
John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.