They’ve been labeled Nazis, fascist, racists, evil-doers, and about every other negative moniker one could hang on them, but the organizers behind last weekend’s Straight Pride Parade (a group known as Super Happy Fun America) said they are none of the above.
In fact, during an interview preceding a lively press conference on the grounds of the Bunker Hill Monument Aug. 29, members of Super Happy said they simply want to promote the idea of having people calmly talk about the issues facing American culture – in particular issues like gender, sexuality and moral values.
Samson Racioppi, chairman of the Board of Super Happy, said he lives in Greater Boston and studies law in the city, and as a former military serviceman, he said he wants to end the identity politics that have hamstrung the public square.
“I think we chose to have our press conference before the Parade at Bunker Hill because of what it symbolizes and the history that happened here,” he said, while sitting directly under the Monument on a park bench. “We tell people we’re a civil rights organization. We believe what we’re doing is the ignition of a new, modern revolution. We’re are all in agreement that we need to remove the identity politics that is coming out of predominantly the (political) left. And when I say revolution, I mean revolution in terms of an intellectual revolution…I and most of us are really just free speech advocates. This is not Anti-LGBTQ at all. It’s pro-heterosexual. That’s different. We are very upset at corporations that want to include diversity for financial gain. Companies like Netflix co-opted the LGBTQ movement because they think it can make them money. Our movement, in part, is pushing back against that…We’re taking back the public square so we can have peaceful discourse.”
John Hugo, president of Super Happy and a former candidate for City Council in Charlestown’s District 1, said by trying to promote their free speech message – which is heavily colored with support for President Donald Trump – they have received death threats and other such messages.
He said they have been “doxed” by groups associated with Antifa – a grass-roots counter-protest movement that sometimes uses violence and intimidation as a tactic to shutdown opponents. Doxed, he said, refers to a practice of calling an employer and pressuring them to fire someone based on their political or social stances.
“We are a civil rights organization and a heterosexual rights group and that’s absolutely not anti-LGBTQ,” he said. “There is a difference. We’re not at all interested in what you do in your bedroom and believe that’s your business. None of it, though, belongs in the public schools. We’d like to see them get back to more reading, writing and arithmetic and less of the social justice engineering stuff. Many people are too scared to speak up about their concerns on this because of the blowback they’ll get. Free speech is for everybody. Everybody wants to have free speech they agree with, but the true test in these times is allowing speech you disagree with. When people threaten us with violence for our speech, that crosses the line.”
The press conference on Thursday evening on Bunker Hill was quite animated, with much of the television and print media in attendance to hear what the organizers had to say. That message was salted with a man dressed as Santa Claus who was with Super Happy and made a habit out of berating members of the media for not telling the truth about Super Happy in previous reporting.
He recorded the entirety of the conference on his phone.
There was also an opposition heckler who made vulgar suggestions to members of Super Happy and tried to disrupt the traditional media from asking legitimate questions.
A dramatic point of the conference was when the heckler and a member of Super Happy faced off in a heated confrontation – all recorded by Santa Claus – though it fell apart before elevating to fisticuffs.
That set the tone for a raucous affair on Saturday for the Parade, where Super Happy Parade marchers and a large contingent of counter-protesters squared off with law enforcement – with 34 arrests being made mostly from the counter-protest crowd.
Racioppi said their movement came out of a situation where their friend, Hal Shurtleff, attempted to have the Christian flag flown over Boston City Hall in response to the Pride Flag being flown over City Hall in June. Mayor Martin Walsh and the City denied Shurtleff’s request, and Racioppi said that started many in their group thinking about fairness in the public square.
That’s when they decided to apply for a Parade permit, which they could not be denied under their Constitutional rights. The City did issue that permit for last weekend, a Parade whose grand marshal and keynote speaker was controversial conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos.
Racioppi said they are not racists, white supremacists or fascists, but are labeled as such because their opposition has no good argument against their free speech demands. He said today’s free speech is only free for those that agree with one another.
“Right now it seems there is an agenda and if you’re not part of that agenda, you’re a white supremacist and that’s that,” he said. “When it comes to gender issues, these things are very new in our culture, but there is no discussion allowed. We can’t even have a discussion about that without being labeled a bigot. That’s not free speech. That’s why I believe speech is under attack.”