Boston community and faith leaders gathered for a press conference Monday morning calling for action by city leaders after a demonstration by dozens of apparent white supremacists who marched through the city's streets and an alleged attack on a Black man on Saturday.
The Boston Police Department said it learned around 12:30 p.m. that about 100 protesters had gathered on Congress Street near City Hall Plaza Saturday.
Photos and videos posted to social media appeared to show throngs of protesters marching under the banner of the Patriot Front, characterized by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white supremacist group.
Patriot Front has recently made appearances across the country. More than two dozen members were arrested last month in Idaho when they allegedly targeted a Pride festival.
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"It's a shame. It's just a shame that in 2022 that we've regressed to this point in our country," said Rod Webber, a local filmmaker working to expose the group. "They're a bunch of Nazis and I said, 'go home, cowards.' And we literally chased them down the street."
Mayor Michelle Wu said Monday that investigators are looking into a confrontation that broke out during the march near Back Bay station, though no charges have been filed at this time. A photo captured by a Boston Herald photographer appears to show marchers clashing with a Black man.
"Investigations are still ongoing, particularly the civil rights investigation around the brief confrontation that happened right outside the police station as this group was departing," Wu told reporters Monday.
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The victim of that attack was identified by community leaders as Charles Murrell, an artist and peace advocate in the Boston area.
Murrell, whose hand was bandaged Monday, did not want to speak of specific details of his attack.
According to a police report, Murrell was walking down the street when he was in the middle of a group of men with masks who shoved and pushed him. He fought back, and then more men went after him, knocking him to the ground. He received stitches to his hand and had cuts to his head.
Murrell has called for peace and invited those listening to a peace and reconciliation concert on July 14 at 7 p.m. at Copley Square, an event he said would serve as a call to action.
“I am appalled that even as a healer I have to get my cup poured into in this incident, but in this incident I will continue to pour into other people's cup as a way to pour into my own cup,” Murrell said.
Local activists believe it's time for city leaders to stand up, calling for accountability and saying the mayor and police need to do more to stop racism.
Rev. Kevin C. Peterson of the New Democracy Coalition, who said he is acting as a supporter and advisor for Murrell, said Saturday's events did not come as a surprise to him, but that he and others who work with him on civic engagement and racial justice issues are hopeful it could lead to progress.
"Specifically we ask that the mayor immediately convene a race commission that will allow some of the thought leaders in this city and outside of this city to make a historical assessment about where we are as a city with regard to race and racism and then begin to institutionalize policies that will begin a process of racial repair and racial reconciliation," Peterson said.
The assembled group went on to explain that they are looking for a way to have conversations on race but also to collect data on racial inequities in the city to determine how something like Saturday's march could happen, the groups and people involved, and use that type of information to figure out how to heal what they called the "fractured relationships" between racial groups.
Peterson said the safety of Boston's residents, particularly its Black residents, was at the top of mind.
"What is the call to action? Where is the accountability?" asked Mawakana Onifade.
Massachusetts State Police said there was no indication that Patriot Front will be a problem for the city's July 4 events and that they are prepared to respond to any issues. The mayor noted that they are in touch with city, state and federal law enforcement to monitor any potential disruption and that the city "will not be intimidated" by Saturday's display.
City leaders did speak out about the march when the news first broke on Saturday.
"To the white supremacists who ran through downtown today: When we march, we don't hide our faces. Your hate is as cowardly as it is disgusting, and it goes against all that Boston stands for," Wu wrote on Twitter.
"We do not welcome that here. We condemn them," Wu added in comments made Monday morning. "It is insulting to the city of Boston, especially in a moment when we lift up our role for fighting for equality and liberty for every single person and the parts of that fight that we are still leading the way on today."
The city says it had no prior knowledge of the demonstration.
"I'm outraged and disgusted at the white supremacist group protesting today," added City Council President Ed Flynn in a tweet.
In a longer statement, Flynn referred to the Patriot Front's actions last month at a Pride event in Idaho, where 31 members of the hate group were arrested on charges of conspiracy to riot. Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Lee White said he and his department subsequently received death threats from anonymous callers.
"It is incumbent upon all of us to acknowledge, call out, and disavow the growing extremism and creeping hate in our country wherever we see it," Flynn wrote. "We must always stand with the Jewish community and our communities of color, educate our children about the horrors of the past so that history does not repeat itself, and make clear to all neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups that they are not welcome and will never represent our values."
Revolutionary Spaces, which operates the Old State House, slammed the group for protesting outside the historic site.
"No place was more central to the birth of our most fundamental democratic ideals than the Old State House," Revolutionary Spaces President and CEO Nathaniel Sheidley said in a statement. "The presence in its shadow of those who would reject these ideals is an important reminder that democracy is fragile and the work of building a society rooted in liberty and justice for all is not finished."
City Councilor At-Large Ruthzee Louijeune said the protesters are "Cowards, all of them. No place for what they're selling in our city."
"This is disgusting. Hate groups have no place in our society," City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo said in a tweet. "Boston is for everyone, recognizes the gift that is our diversity, and will never cower or capitulate to hate."