Britni de la Cretaz is a writer and activist. The views expressed here are her own.
The narrative in television media coverage of Boston’s protests on Saturday have largely depicted lots of tensions and arrests, but that's not what I witnessed as tens of thousands of Bostonians marched in the "Fight Supremacy! Counter-Protest." The crowd was a mix of old people and young people, queer people and straight people, atheists and people of faith. It was Black-led, and the crowd was diverse. They sang, danced, chanted, and were a joyous group of 40,000 people coming together in solidarity for human decency.
New England Cable News (NECN) reported that "angry counterprotesters scuffled with armed officers trying to maintain order." NBC Boston illustrated their article with a photo of someone burning a Confederate flag and they ran a second article focused entirely on police efforts, without commenting on or speaking to the organizers of the massive counter protest.
But from my vantage point, as the large, peaceful the march moved from the South End and approached the Boston Common, a line of police carrying batons marched towards them. The police looked like the Imperial March in their SWAT uniforms and carrying bats (the media is reporting that 500 police were on the ground in Boston, but at yesterday's press conference, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans declined to confirm numbers). It felt like an odd show of force for an action that organizers and participants had stressed time and again was a non-violent and whose stated purpose was to “Rally for Black Lives, LGBTQI Lives, Indigenous Lives, Palestinian Lives, Cape Verde Lives, Latinx Lives, Jewish Lives, and all who are marginalized.”
The narrative reported out of Boston yesterday should have been this: Black people peacefully led 40,000 people through the city to chase white supremacists out of public space and reclaim the streets. Black people, led by Black women, called on allies to show up, and they did. They led an organized, determined, loving group of people across the city and it was only when they arrived at where the police were waiting with riot gear and batons that things got “tense.”
And yet, an hour later during an argument with a Black man, it was a white man in a Make America Great Again hat who tried to pull a gun before being chased by police and taken into custody. Another man in a MAGA hat was whisked to safety by police, behind their compound beneath the Common, when counterprotesters simply heckled — and made no threats. I did not see counterprotesters given the same courtesy when the situation was reversed.
President Trump tweeted, “Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.” From what I saw on-the-ground, in many cases, it was the police themselves who were the agitators. They were pushing and shoving lines of peaceful people.
Instead of making the 33 arrests out of 40,000 attendees sensationalist or an indicator that less than 0.01 percent of people were up to no good — some of which a colleague of mine witnessed as counterprotesters doing nothing wrong but being thrown to the ground by officers — we should be asking what they were arrested for. How many were counterprotesters? How many were people of color? How many of those arrests came because police were instigating or escalating situations? When I hear from people on the ground that counterprotesters were pepper sprayed and harassed, I believe them.
Balanced reporting on this topic would mean not just taking the Boston Police Department's word about what happened, but asking the National Lawyer's Guild, too, as well as asking organizers how they thought it went. But, despite organizers tweeting that 26 comrades were arrested and crowdfunding bail money, I have yet to see coverage that speaks to either the NLG or organizers about it. I would also not know that organizers have started a change.org petition asking for charges against their comrades to be dropped.
Furthermore, why can’t the media make the joy and resistance the focus of reports? The peaceful, determined, and strong AF people who turned up to make sure everyone knew that Boston had no tolerance for white supremacy far outnumbered the white nationalists, the free speechers, or even the agitators. What I will remember about being in the crowd yesterday is not the few people who were looking for a fight, but the smiling faces of people who came together to say enough is enough. I saw "witches against white supremacy," pedicab drivers for the resistance, queer and trans folks, the Boston Teachers' Union, and faith leaders of all stripes.
The catalyst for the show of numbers in Boston was horrific violence in Charlottesville, VA last weekend. What Boston showed the nation on Saturday was that people are up for the challenge of resisting white nationalism, white supremacy, and fascism in the United States. What Boston showed the nation is that we're ready to take the lead of Black Lives Matter Boston, Black Lives Matter Cambridge, and Violence in Boston, who stepped up yesterday to lead events including a march of people that spanned two miles of street, to a rally outside the State House where speakers brought attention to local issues, like prison (in)justice and budget cuts to HIV funding, homeless services, and schools.
Sharing the true narrative would mean acknowledging that the police did not act in people's best interest. It would mean acknowledging that Black Lives Matter organizers have influence, and the ability to peacefully and successfully organize large groups of people. Acknowledging those things would mean challenging the white supremacist rhetoric that our country, and much of our mainstream media, is built on.
The images on TV may be trying to tell me something about what happened in my city yesterday, but I was there, along with thousands of other people; we know the truth. When I think about what I witnessed on the streets of Boston, I'm going to choose to remember the people who showed up to resist and showed up to spread love. I'm going to be grateful for the Black leadership who organized us. I'm choosing to recognize that the real heroes yesterday were the counterprotesters, not the police, not the mayor, and not the state.
Power to the people.
Britni de la Creatz is a freelance writer and baseball enthusiast living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter.