About 100 masked marchers moved quickly through downtown Boston Saturday, most wearing matching khaki pants, blue shirts, gaiters covering their faces, ball caps and sunglasses.
They carried riot shields and American flags, at times marching along portions of the Freedom Trail, as a drummer rapidly played.
But the marchers Saturday were part of a white nationalist group, Patriot Front, whose members believe that their white European ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it to them, and no one else.
The group began assembling at Haymarket in Boston around 12:30 p.m. Saturday. A Boston police dispatcher reported that the group began “unloading shields and flags from a UHaul” before marching to Back Bay Station and dispersing around 1:30 p.m.
The Boston Herald reported one Black man received injuries during an altercation with the group near Dartmouth and Stuart streets. A Herald photographer caught an image of the man being pushed by marchers with shields.
Boston police and the department’s Civil Rights Unit are investigating the incident, a Boston police spokesperson told the Boston Globe.
Who are they?
Flyers found near Boston Public Library after the group marched through were from the Patriot Front. The group is described by the Anti-Defamation League as a “white supremacist group whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it to them, and no one else.” The group is also known for conducting flash demonstrations, in which group members appear and protest quickly, then leave.
If the khaki pants, blue shirts and masks look familiar, it’s not the group’s first splash in the news. Last month, 31 people were arrested in Idaho after a 911 call about a group dressed like a “little army” were seen getting into a moving truck with riot gear.
CNN reported the group was headed to a Pride in the Park event, but were pulled over and arrested before they could get there.
Past activity in Massachusetts
Saturday’s march wasn’t the group’s first activity in Massachusetts. Last week, the group posted on its Gab social media page that members had placed posters in Southborough.
And in 2019, three men who met while playing video games online were arraigned on weapons charges and an assault and battery charge after police say they dressed in face masks and hoods while hanging white nationalist propaganda in East Boston.
In fact, the Anti-Defamation League reports that since 2019, the group has been responsible for the vast majority of white supremacist propaganda distributed in the United States.
The group itself reports having had 141 “instances of activism” in Massachusetts, which it says includes “posters, banners, stencils, hikes, food drives, training meets, trash pickups, and flyer handouts.”
The group is based in Texas and led by Thomas Ryan Rousseau. Videos and photos shot by observers Saturday showed a man who matched Rousseau with the marchers.
Patriot Front split off from Vanguard America in 2017. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group formed in the aftermath of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2017.
Vanguard is a neo-Nazi group that participated in the demonstration, in which one person was murdered and 35 injured.
Rousseau was one of the Vanguard leaders during the rally, before leaving to form his own group.
The group’s website leans heavily on the importance of the “European race” and says it “must reforge themselves as a new collective capable of asserting our right to cultural independence.”
The group says that “an unwavering resistance will meet all enemies of the people and the nation, both foreign and domestic.” The group’s manifesto calls the U.S. “a bleeding carcass bereft of the moral foundations which made it powerful.”
Yet, American imagery is important and prominent in the group’s materials.
Reactions to the group’s quick march in Boston Saturday were swift and condemning.
“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,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu wrote on Twitter Saturday.
Boston City Council President Ed Flynn posted to Twitter: “I’m outraged and disgusted at the white supremacist group protesting today in #Boston. It’s critical to call out hate and intimidation when we see it, educate children on horrors of the past & stand w/the Jewish community, our immigrant neighbors & communities of color.”
Story by Noah R. Bombard, masslive.com