CHELSEA — About 40 far-right protesters gathered in front of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s office here on Sunday to oppose a recent FBI search of former President Trump’s Florida home and air a list of demands.
The protest was announced earlier in the week by members of Super Fun Happy America, a local organization with ties to the far right, and followed an increase in violence and threats against the FBI and other law enforcement agencies after the FBI searched Trump’s home Aug. 8 in search of classified documents.
During the protest Sunday, a demonstrator played “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” on a trumpet. Others held signs with messages such as “No Trust” and “FBI is corrupt.”
Super Happy Fun America president John Hugo said the FBI should be disbanded.
“It’s become a rogue agency,” he said. “It’s a partisan police force.”
A handful of counter-demonstrators mingled with the protesters, talking with them or filming the demonstration. Embry G. noted that both sides, in this instance, are united in their opposition to the FBI.
“Nice to agree with them on something,” said Embry, who declined to provide his last name, citing safety concerns. Embry said he had a “decent conversation” with one protester about how the FBI had impacted both sides but that he strongly opposes far-right groups because they target the queer community and minorities.
Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes said officials were aware of the demonstration and had been working with FBI officials to ensure the event was peaceful.
“We have been actively coordinating with the FBI all week to keep all demonstrators and onlookers safe and secure and trust that this will be a peaceful event,” Kyes said.
Kyes said Chelsea police had officers deployed out of direct line of sight along with the department’s command vehicle. In addition, he was in the immediate area with other police supervisors.
“It was a peaceful demonstration with folks gathered to exercise their First Amendment right,” Kyes said.
Kristen Setera, a spokeswoman for the local FBI office, said the agency “respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise” their First Amendment rights.
“We advise individuals taking part in protest activities to remain aware of their immediate surroundings and to report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement,” Setera said.
Since the FBI’s search of Trump’s estate, threats of violence against the agency have increased online from the former president’s supporters. On Aug. 11, a 42-year-old gunman attacked a Cincinnati FBI office after urging a “call to arms” over the FBI search of Trump’s home. The man, identified as Ricky W. Shiffer, was shot and killed by authorities.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have issued a bulletin warning of the threat against federal law enforcement, as well as other government officials as a result of the search.
Carl Paladino, a Republican congressional candidate from New York, called for the death of Attorney General Merrick Garland for approving the search of Trump’s home during an Aug. 13 interview with Breitbart News. He later said he was “just being facetious.”
Sunday’s protest also came amid troubling signs that far-right and white supremacist groups are becoming more visible in Boston and across the region.
In November, the Super Fun Happy America group held a “Rise Against Tyranny” protest at Boston Common, where scores of supporters verbally clashed with counter-demonstrators and occasionally got into fistfights, despite a massive police presence. Two people were arrested in connection with the event, including a Wakefield man who drove a rental van through a police barricade.
The group also hosted a “Straight Pride Parade” in Boston in 2019.
On July 2, about 100 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front marched through part of Boston, and members of the group allegedly assaulted a Black man.
In Jamaica Plain, a leader of the neo-Nazi group NSC-131 was arrested during a protest July 23 outside a children’s drag queen story hour. A separate drag queen story hour event planned for the Seaport on Aug. 7 was canceled after NSC-131 members gathered to protest it.
US Attorney Rachael Rollins has announced an “End Hate Now” hotline for people to report any suspected white supremacist activity or hate crimes. She has said the hotline was created to help protect Massachusetts residents from violence and hate.