“Today, Boston stood for peace and love, not bigotry and hate. We should work to bring people together, not apart.” Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, said on Twitter that he “couldn’t be more proud of” the city. “Peaceful, moral, resistant,” he tweeted. “That is our city and commonwealth.”
“We probably had 40,000 people out here, standing tall against hatred and bigotry in our city, and that’s a good feeling,” the Police Commissioner William B. Evans said, adding that though there were a few unconstructive rioters who showed up who wanted the hate groups to come for a fight “99.9 percent of the people were here for the right reason and that’s to fight bigotry and hate.”
At the risk of seeming parochial, indulge me in this bow to my city for how it preemptively stared down, out-prepared, and ultimately detoured from stepping foot in our city the highly orchestrated plans of a network of neo-Nazi/white-supremacist groups which paraded through and wreaked havoc on Charlottesville, just over a week ago.
Every city has its tribalism around sports teams and other icons which give it a sense of shared identity. The Red Sox may have lost to the Yankees on Saturday but in my book our city had already “won” an incredible victory earlier that day.
In philanthropy there is much talk about how to “scale” and replicate effective models of social change. While we wish we could stick with winning baseball games, the way Boston handled the threat of a neo-Nazi, white supremacist parade descending on our city toting guns, clubs, torches, and hate in their hearts is a model of preemptive peace for any next stops on their nationwide “tour.” And maybe some lessons that can apply to other areas of life as well when we need to rise to our highest and best human selves to wisely and delicately protect something dear while safeguarding against an unknown threat…
I wasn’t able to attend the counter-protest in Boston as I was gathering kids from summer camp. Wow, a lot happened in just the one week they were gone that sounded like a scene from a bad movie as I was recounting it to them. When we got home we watched the non-drama unfold in Boston on the news. Yes there were a few ugly exchanges of counter-protesters with the police which they handled efficiently with the same no-drama approach they used with the protesters. Those “Blue Lives” went to great lengths to honor the precious ideal of freedom we hold dear as Americans that honors the right to hold different views while skillfully and bravely modeling for the world how to respond when this right crosses the line of fomenting violence—whatever “side” one is on.
This aerial photo says it all: To white supremacists and all hate-inflaming, violence-provoking ideologies, we will not allow you a foothold in our city or in our minds and hearts…
From the moment I saw that Boston was the next expected “stop” on the national “tour” of the groups that showed up at Charlottesville, I felt a mixed set of feelings that ranged from utter disgust and shock, wanting to run the other way and not give them the narcissistic, oppositional stage they seek, and a sense of maternal protectiveness toward the city that has been my home for almost 25 years. Up until just the day before the rally, there was still little information about what groups would be there to protest and what the counter-protest would entail. So many people were unsure of how and what to do to engage in a constructive way to stand for peace while still processing the parade of menacing hate that began in Charlottesville just a week before with an eerie parade of mostly young men carrying torches and wearing Nazi garb and ended with a car driving into a crowd of counter-protesters killing one and injuring dozens.
When I woke up on Saturday morning, the day of the “free speech” rally in Boston, I felt a pit in my stomach and found myself praying for our city and for all of the incredible people and partners of the Imago Dei Fund who I knew would be there—getting teary even writing this—bravely standing as people of peace in this highly polarized moment that we are living through where things that so many of us thought we had left in the dustbin of history are flaring up and are eerily creeping into the mainstream.
A lot has happened from Charlottesville to Boston and still there are other cities where the same web of creepy “alt right”/white supremacist/white nationalist groups are rallying their troops under the smokescreen of “free speech” or historical preservation to descend on a city carrying torches and spewing racist venom. It will be interesting to watch how each city will respond. Some will say that Boston over-reacted. Maybe we did. Who knows how much money we spent to prepare for Saturday to create an environment that made it unattractive for the same groups that descended on Charlottesville to step foot in our city and use us as a stage to attempt to mainstream their extremism. Who knows what would have happened if we had not prepared as we had. While it was not clear before the rally whether there was a direct connection between the organizers of the “free speech” event in Boston and the white-nationalist “Unite the Right” rally that took place in Charlottesville, Boston listened to its instincts and kicked into gear to preempt hate and terror from wreaking havoc as they have done so skillfully every marathon since the 2014 Boston Marathon terror attack.
Thanks to the leadership and skills of our mayor and police commissioner and so many civil society groups, as the police commissioner described, 99.9% of those in attendance came with peaceful intentions and no injuries or deaths happened. The city honored the First Amendment rights of both the protesters—who dwindled down to a mere fifty or so—and the counter-protesters Read More