Last July, State Police tracked a U-Haul box truck from a gathering of the white nationalist group Patriot Front in downtown Boston to a stretch of highway in Stoneham. When troopers stopped the rental vehicle, they encountered three men hauling the trailer filled with metal and plexiglass shields, poles, and Patriot Front flags.
Earlier that day, July 2, about 100 Patriot Front members had made their mark in Boston, parading by historic landmarks in a procession that culminated near Back Bay Station, where masked marchers with shields surrounded Charles Murrell III, a Black musician and activist, who said he was attacked.
More than a year after the organization’s demonstration in Boston, a full picture of the clash between Murrell and the Patriot Front members has yet to emerge, and the uproar over the surprise march and law enforcement’s slow response has quieted down somewhat.
No charges have been filed in connection with the confrontation between Murrell and Patriot Front members, and city officials have said civil liberties protections constrained what police could do in response to the demonstration. On Wednesday, a Boston police spokesperson said the case involving Murrell remains under investigation.
Within days of the July 2, 2022, Patriot Front march, the Globe requested, under the state’s public records law, body camera footage of State Police interacting with the group that day and video from city-owned cameras showing the clash with Murrell.
State Police and Boston police initially declined to release any video. State Police cited the pending case against Colton M. Brown, 24, and Boston police said video from city-owned cameras pertained to “an active and ongoing investigation.”
But on Tuesday, State Police provided the footage from the traffic stop. And Boston police said the department plans to release footage after its video is reviewed for possible redactions.
The footage from State Police body cameras has shed new light on efforts by law enforcement to catch up with Patriot Front organizers that day even after the marchers left the city.
State Police deployed a helicopter and cruisers to follow the rented U-Haul box truck used by Patriot Front to transport the shields, flags, a drum, poles, and a megaphone out of Boston via Interstate 93, according to police and court records.
Troopers stopped the vehicle on the northbound side of I-93 near Montvale Avenue in Stoneham, where police said they found evidence that the driver, Brown, had allegedly attached an unregistered Arizona license plate to the truck.
Brown so far is the only person linked to the July 2, 2022, demonstration to face criminal prosecution.
The Rev. Miniard Culpepper, senior pastor at Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Dorchester, has urged Boston police to release its video. A few days after the Patriot Front march, Culpepper said he participated in a meeting with Murrell, Mayor Michelle Wu, and the Rev. Kevin C. Peterson, founder of the New Democracy Coalition, a civic engagement organization.
“This should have never been dormant for this long,” Culpepper said. “If they can bring some charges and prosecute somebody, then let’s do it.”
Peterson said Wu should have pressed more strenuously for a resolution in Murrell’s case.
“I’m sorry to say that this doesn’t seem to be a priority issue for her,” he said.
Asked for comment, Wu’s office referred to the mayor’s meeting last year with Murrell, during which she said she connected him with the Boston Police Department.
Murrell didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The camera video from State Police in Stoneham lasts more than nine minutes and offers the most expansive look to date at law enforcement officers interacting with people associated with last year’s Patriot Front demonstration in Boston. Troopers alleged Brown was trying to conceal the movements of his rental truck by affixing a license plate on it that wasn’t registered to the vehicle.
“You got attached plates. It’s a criminal offense,” State Police Sergeant Danab Shea told Brown, according to the video. “That plate doesn’t belong on this truck. Plus it’s not even screwed on all the way. It almost looks like someone was playing around with it.”
Shea consulted with other troopers at the scene before issuing a criminal citation.
“I’ll whack him for it because that’s ridiculous,” he said.
Brown, who gave an address in Ravensdale, Wash., but later informed court officials he was living in Midvale, Utah, told another trooper he wanted to speak with U-Haul about the plate. He asked about what would happen to the truck’s cargo.
“What is all this stuff?” the trooper asked, standing in of the front flags and shields in the truck’s trailer.
“Stuff,” Brown said.
The video doesn’t show troopers questioning Brown or his two passengers about the Patriot Front march in Boston. State Police fined one of the passengers, Garret J. Garland, 24, of Freeburg, Ill., for a seat belt violation, court records show. The fine was paid last August, a state Department of Transportation spokesperson said. Troopers identified the third passenger as Keith M. Ray, then 28, of Williamsport, Pa., but he wasn’t cited, records show.
Brown told State Police the U-Haul was booked by a Spencer resident, Brian D. Harwood, 25, who has defended himself against vandalism charges related to Patriot Front activities in two cases on Cape Cod. In May, Harwood was placed on pretrial probation and ordered to stay away from Framingham State University and complete 24 hours of community service over charges related to Patriot Front stickers found on campus in 2021, court records show.
Reached by phone, Harwood hung up. His lawyer didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.
Brown’s criminal motor vehicle case was heard in Woburn District Court and dismissed in April after he paid $150 in court costs, records show.
The Globe couldn’t locate a working telephone number for Garland, and the lawyer representing him in Idaho didn’t return messages.
The Stoneham traffic stop shared some commonalities with another high-profile incident involving the Patriot Front that occurred three weeks earlier on June 11 of last year in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.
In that case, police arrested 31 Patriot Front members equipped with body armor and shields and accused them of planning to riot at a Pride event. The group included Patriot Front founder Thomas Rousseau, who also participated in the Boston march. Investigators in Idaho said they discovered the plot after a man reported seeing “a little army” pile into the back of a U-Haul truck and head toward downtown Coeur D’Alene.
Brown and Garland, were among the Patriot Front members arrested in Idaho and charged with one misdemeanor count criminal conspiracy to riot, according to court records reviewed by the Globe. Both men have pleaded not guilty and they are scheduled to go on trial next month, according to court officials in Kootenai County, Idaho.
The first trial in the Idaho case concluded earlier this month with convictions against five Patriot Front members.
Jason L. Van Dyke, a lawyer in Denton, Texas, said Brown denies committing any criminal offenses in Idaho or Massachusetts. Van Dyke said he doesn’t represent Brown in any judicial proceedings, but Brown had asked him to respond to the Globe’s request for comment.