Metro

Mass. GOP official calls Jewish protesters ‘a disgrace’ and an ‘embarrassment’

Protesters stood outside the Massachusetts GOP office singing songs and telling stories.
Andres Picon for the Boston Globe
Protesters stood outside the Massachusetts GOP office singing songs and telling stories.

Fourteen Jewish protesters were arrested outside the state headquarters of the Massachusetts Republican Party in downtown Boston Friday after a Republican official denounced them as an “embarrassment to the country.”

Boston police made the arrests outside the Merrimac Street office around 9:30 a.m. Tom Mountain, who is is the vice chairman for an unofficial Jewish committee within the MassGOP, complained he was being blocked from entering the building.

While protesters, most of whom appeared to be in their 20s, sang and recited Jewish prayers, including the prayer for the dead, Mountain told the media the protesters were “a disgrace to the Jewish people” and “an embarrassment to this country.”

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The arrests came about 90 minutes after a group of 50 men and women who identified themselves as members of the group IfNotNow arrived at the headquarters intent on protesting what they said was “white nationalism” embedded in the Republican Party since President Trump took office.

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“The [Republican Party] has blood on its hands,” said Evvie Jagoda, 26, one of the lead speakers at the protest. “They have refused to hold their elected representatives accountable. They have continued to support Trump, who is a white nationalist by his own admission.”

The group was also protesting anti-Semitic attacks in the United States, particularly last Saturday’s mass killing of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, allegedly by a heavily armed man who told police he wanted to kill as many Jews as he could.

In a statement Friday, MassGOP chair Kirsten Hughes said, “The MassGOP strongly condemns and rejects all forms of hate, violence, and deeply values religious freedom.”

The night before the protest at the GOP headquarters, hundreds gathered at the New England Holocaust Memorial, just a few blocks away from the Republican office, for a candlelight vigil supporting the Pittsburgh victims and denouncing racist violence.

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During the Friday morning demonstration, protesters filled the office building’s small foyer, overflowing outside onto the sidewalk.

“We are demanding that the GOP fully reject and fully denounce white nationalism because we know that their complicity in stoking the fire of white nationalism is, in part, what led to the violence,” said Eliza Kaplan, 25, one of the leaders of the IfNotNow protest.

Andres Picon
Protestors sit in a circle in the foyer of the Massachusetts GOP office downtown.

IfNotNow members wearing fluorescent vests stood outside the entrance and several times turned away people who said they worked in the building, regardless of whether they worked in the Republican party office.

Mountain spoke to the media on the street in front of the protest.

“They’re vile,” Mountain said of the protesters. “They are basically spitting on the graves of the deceased who were massacred by the anti-Trump white supremacist last week in Pittsburgh . . . They’re trying to paint America as some racist Nazi entity. It is not. This was an isolated incident caused by one crazed gunman. Something like this has never happened before in the history of the United States.”

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Several police officers who had been monitoring the protest began making the arrests after Mountain complained he couldn’t get into the office. The protesters continued singing and chanting as officers handcuffed them, and they were loaded into detention vans. The protesters said they had expected to be arrested.

The protesters were charged with disorderly conduct and their cases will be heard in the Boston Municipal Court, officials said. A date was not given.

Andres Picon
A protestor is arrested by Boston police for blocking the entrance to the GOP office.

Andres Picon can be reached at andres.picon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andpicon.