A late-night flash mob rally by about 20 members of a separatist group often associated with white supremacy movements staged an elaborate event last Saturday, July 6, at the Bunker Hill Monument that has residents and elected officials upset – and federal and local law enforcement investigating.
It was around 11:30 p.m. on a quiet Saturday night amidst the Independence Day holiday when two residents – a husband and wife who asked to remain anonymous – looked out their window when a sudden commotion on Monument Square broke out.
To their shock, about 17 to 20 people were parading through the streets with red flares, smoke bombs and bullhorns shouting chants that bordered on racist mantras – all the while carefully filming the dramatic scene. The residents said the group then moved quickly up to the Monument and unfurled a banner that read ‘Revolution is Tradition’ while shouting through the bullhorn and lighting off flares.
As residents, a Park Ranger, Monument visitors and Boston Police began to respond to the commotion, the group fled as quickly as they had emerged – chucking their red flares in the yards of homes and taking off in vehicles that seemingly were tied to Lowell and New York state.
“It was terrifying,” said the residents. “It only lasted about five or 10 minutes, but it was coordinated, tactical, planned and very scary to watch. I think they wanted pictures of the Monument. I went out to confront their ideas, and they really just ran away from me…There was so much smoke from the flares, we thought they might have set houses on fire.”
Added the other resident, “I felt like they wanted to get pictures of themselves going through a quiet street in Boston where nothing happens and causing what looked like chaos. They had flames, flares, smoke, a message, and threats. It’s about intimidation to me.”
Both said they want to stand up to those who think they can come to Charlestown with that kind of ideology and use the Monument and the neighborhood for such purposes. They said they don’t believe Charlestown residents stand for this ideology, and they don’t think it’s right for the neighborhood to be used to promote it.
While officials are not commenting on whom the group is, the Patriot-Bridge and residents have tied the event to the group Patriot Front Massachusetts – which is a secessionist group purporting to fight ‘tyranny,’ but often associated with other groups bent on racist ideology and white supremacy. The posts on Patriot Front Massachusetts social media showed the event, and it appears more than anything to be some type of recruiting video – though no one would confirm that.
According to Boston Police’s John Boyle, they did respond to the incident on July 6, and took a report for a group of 17 to 20 people marching up Monument Avenue and then putting up a banner in front of the General Prescott statue.
The statue did have some minor damage from the flares and some blue paint that got on it, but nothing major was done to it.
He said it is part of an active investigation by both the Boston Police and the federal government.
Michael Creasy, superintendent of the National Parks of Boston, said they had a Law Enforcement Ranger on site that responded, and he said it was a disturbing situation – and disappointing that the Monument was used for such purposes.
“It’s disturbing,” he said. “I think these places of Patriotic events and heroic events deserve better. These are sacred places. Certainly anyone in America has a right to these places, but we also think this is a special place set aside to remember our fallen heroes and the meaning of Bunker Hill…It was unfortunate and scary as it was performed, but I think it was a performance in its nature.”
He said the National Park Service is investigating the incident, which was estimated to have lasted only about five minutes.
If it is indeed the Patriot Front, that is the same group that came to East Boston last February and posted fliers there saying, ‘Keep America American.’ Three men hailing from Lowell, Malden and New York state were arrested on weapons charges in that incident, but there wasn’t much Boston Police could do about the posting and handing out of the fliers due to First Amendment rights.
In Charlestown, elected officials and Mayor Martin Walsh were taking a firm stand against the group using the Monument for their rally.
In a joint statement, State Rep. Dan Ryan and Councilor Lydia Edwards said such messages are not Patriotic, and not true to the real history of Bunker Hill.
“Racism and bigotry are not patriotic in any form,” they wrote. “We denounce actions of groups like the Patriot Front that seek to stoke fear and division. Boston celebrates each and every one of its communities and Bunker Hill in particular stands for, and celebrates, the bravery of this nation’s most diverse gathering of patriotic volunteers. At Bunker Hill, Irish Catholics, French Huguenots, Scottish and English Patriots of various denominations, Native Americans, African-Americans – freedmen and slaves – stood together, shoulder to shoulder and confronted the greatest army the world had seen up until that time. This disparate group of individuals shared common beliefs despite varying life stories, and our nation, in the centuries that followed, has continued to enact law after law to fulfill a founding promise that all people are created equal.”
Ryan added both have been working with law enforcement on the investigation.
“Councilor Edwards and I have been in communication over this incident,” he said. “We have been in contact with the Boston Police Department and National Parks Service; both departments are working together to determine the extent of this disturbance from a policing matter.”
Mayor Martin Walsh praised the residents on Monument Square for coming out and standing up to the group as they began their performance.
“It was sad and it was not just vandalism, but downright racism,” he said. “We’re not going to tolerate that…I commend the neighbors here in Charlestown. The neighbors got out of their homes and went up there and confronted these people. There’s no place for that here, there’s no place for that in Charlestown at the Bunker Hill Monument and what that stands for. We’re trying to find out who did this. We’re on top of it. I don’t want to give it more play than it deserves, but I want to be very careful too. That’s very dangerous stuff they’re messing around with. When you bring hate into things, it can get really ugly fast. I want to commend the people of Charlestown who stood up to it.”
He added that if any neighbors see any further incidents or spot any of the people who were there Saturday, they should once again contact the police immediately.