The saga of Boston's so-called Straight Pride Parade refuses to end, with a judge upholding charges against 36 protestors despite requests from prosecutors to drop the cases.
Four police officers were injured in fights during the event, which was organized and attended by a small number of right-wing activists. They were greatly outnumbered by protestors, whom the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association claim assaulted officers.
Among those pushing for protestors to be released: local prosecutors, who asked the judge to dismiss some of the cases in exchange for eight hours of community service and to release others without bail.
District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who oversees prosecutions, has said in the past that it's counterproductive to prosecute low-level charges. Instead, her office has pursued non-criminal diversion programs or dismissals, since incarceration often perpetuates a cycle of crime rather than reducing it.
According to prosecutors, police could not show probable cause to pursue some of the cases.
Judge Richard Sinnott upheld charges against nearly every person arrested and imposed bails in the range of several hundred dollars. He did not cite any reason for his decision. Former U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner called Sinnott's move "lawless," arguing that he overstepped his authority by overruling prosecutors.
"I will use the legal process to remedy the judge's overstepping of his role," Rollins said in a statement.
Police celebrated the news, with a spokesperson for the police union telling local news station WVCB, "We couldn't be happier at the moment with the judge that's on the bench."
But many who attended the counter-protests contend that it was the police, many of whom were brought in from surrounding towns to patrol the event, who escalated the violence. Reports claim they pepper sprayed the crowd. Various accounts from onlookers also say police provoked confrontations, driving their motorcycles at people, shielding right-wing marchers, and shoving people for no clear reason.
Boston Police Captain John "Jack" Danilecki faces particular criticism for his handling of the event, appearing to shove and pepper-spray protestors in numerous videos taken of the event.
While charges against the protestors move through the courts, the ACLU is investigating reports of police misconduct. "The BPD showed up in full riot gear," Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, told public radio station WGBH. "If was such a big show of force, is that always the best method to keep the peace?"
As Rose also pointed out, the prosecutions being lobbied against protesters of the Straight Pride Parade were arguably the goal. "The notion that our culture discriminates against straight people is silly, and frankly disingenuous," she said. "They bring out these tactics, they want to try to provoke conflict and get in the news, those are historic tactics designed to bring on a repressive crackdown."
One that front, at least, the Straight Pride appears to have been a complete success.
Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley tweeted links to a bail fund, calling it "one way to support the local [LGBTQ+] community impacted by Boston's white supremacist parade." With a target of $15,000, the bail fund took in nearly $25,000.
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