Members of the white nationalist group The Patriot Front marched through downtown Boston before returning to their cars in Malden. IMAGE: COURTESY OF DEMOCRACY NOW
After nearly 100 white supremacists marched through downtown Boston, resulting in brief violence, city councilors and activists questioned the Boston Police Department’s response and the agency’s effectiveness against -Terrorism and city intelligence.
On Saturday July 2, marchers in masks, khakis and polo shirts with the insignia of the white supremacist group Patriot Front, roamed the city streets before several artists and activists assaulted Charles Murrell III who told the media he confronted the group. Murrell, a black man, appears in a widely circulated Associated Press photo being pushed around by metal shields by members of the group.
According to GBH News reports last week, at least one witness to the attack called 911 and noted a lack of response from the operator and a noticeable lack of police at the scene. Law enforcement has since claimed to have been “caught off guard” by the group’s action.
In response, Councilman Ricardo Arroyo filed an order calling for a public hearing to discuss the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) and Boston Police Department’s approach to the growing presence of white supremacist hate groups in Boston. The board’s order directs that representatives of the Boston Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Attorney General’s Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office and other interested parties be invited to address the board.
Arroyo said the problem with law enforcement’s response was two-fold – the first problem being an intelligence failure.
“The Patriot Front is a white supremacist domestic terrorist organization. Three weeks ago you had one of the founding members of their organization arrested in Idaho,” Arroyo said, referring to the arrest of dozens of Patriot Front members for conspiracy to riot during a a Pride festival in Coeur d’Alene in June.
“We are told that we had no intelligence on this?” said Arroyo.
The second problem, according to the counselor and district attorney candidate, is that BPD patrol officers were not present to monitor the event and prevent violence.
“We had no officers in front of this convoy, informing pedestrians of what was happening on the street, we had no officers next to this convoy who could have been eyewitnesses to this assault and could have making those arrests right there,” he said.
Following the incident, Mayor Michelle Wu and US Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins said law enforcement was reviewing video evidence in an effort to identify group members present during the assault. .
Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden told GBH News that “if and when arrests are made, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of Massachusetts law.”
It is also unclear what federal action can be taken. Undercover FBI agents were spotted at the scene, according to reports.
Patriot Front is a white nationalist hate group that formed in the aftermath of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are chapters in 40 states, including Massachusetts.
Arroyo, in his conversation with the banner, pointed to the increase in hate crimes in the Bay State, including the Nationalist Socialist Club 131 (NSC-131) displaying the “Keep Boston Irish” banner along the route of Patrick’s Day Parade in Boston and a January Incident in which two dozen members of NSC-131 demonstrated outside Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston against the hospital’s efforts to establish greater equity in health care for communities of color.
“I think it’s fair to say that as hate crimes grow across the state, they are also happening more and more in the city of Boston,” he said.
At least one member of the group who was present during the early July incident was local – former Barnstable resident Brian Harwood, 25, was identified based on video evidence.
Arroyo and his Boston City Council colleagues have criticized the city’s regional intelligence agency in the past, accusing the arm of racist and ineffective practices, including the use of the controversial gang database.
Last year, the council rejected an $850,000 oversight grant to BRIC after calls for the agency to increase transparency provided little evidence that their practices work in tackling crime.
“The BRIC was created in 2005 explicitly to target acts of terrorism, and the people of Boston deserve answers about their response to recent incidents in Boston and what is being done to address the lack of actionable intelligence before the Patriot march. Front in Boston and inadequate response. that followed, leading to the assault on Charles Murrell III,” Arroyo said in a statement.
Her hearing order is expected to be filed this week.anna