Crime

Two arrested after fight breaks out at protest outside Squad event in Somerville

One man was sent to the hospital to be treated for injuries.

Two men were arrested and one man was sent to the hospital after a fight broke out during a protest outside a progressive Squad event in Somerville Saturday.

Grace Munns, a spokesperson for the City of Somerville, said in an email to Boston.com that Somerville police responded to a report of a fight behind the Somerville Theater on Saturday.

Squad member and Massachusetts 7th Congressional District Rep. Ayanna Pressley was holding one of many Massachusetts events with other Squad members at that venue on Saturday.

The Boston Herald reported that the fight broke out outside the event just after 4 p.m.

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When officers arrived on scene, Munns said, witnesses told them there was a verbal dispute between two men who were part of a protest outside the event led by her opponent, Republican Donnie Palmer, and four other men. The heated exchange turned into a fistfight.

Munns said the two men arrested were Foster Starkes, of Cambridge, and Andwain Coleman, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Both have been charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and will be arraigned in Somerville District Court.

At least one of the two men who were protesting was taken to the hospital, Munns said. The incident is still being investigated by Somerville police.

It is unclear if more arrests and charges will follow or whether Coleman or Starkes were part of the group of four men or among the protesters, but the Herald identifies them as part of the group of four and two other men as the protesters who were attacked.

Two different videos of the fight have been posted to Twitter. One shows the moments before the fight and then a flurry of punches. The other shows several men throwing punches and trying to get one man off another, ending with a shot of a man on the ground who looks like he has suffered injuries.

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On Twitter, Palmer has claimed that the fight began because one of the people who joined in his protest was attacked by the four men, who he says were sent by some of Pressley’s staff. His claims have yet to be affirmed or denied by police or other officials.

Pressley’s campaign told The Boston Globe in a statement Sunday that the campaign was not involved in the fight.

“During the community celebration on Saturday in Somerville, event security was made aware of an altercation that took place in the Davis Square area,” it told the Globe. “This altercation did not involve event security or anyone associated with the community celebration, and was handled by the Somerville Police Department.”

Palmer, who is Black, said in a statement released to the Globe by the Massachusetts Republican Party Sunday afternoon that “radical progressives” are resorting to violence to silence Black Republicans who “dare to ‘step out of line’ and question their far-left agenda.”

Palmer also told the Globe that he got involved in the fight to stop the attackers from hurting bystanders.

“Violence is never the answer, but it seems to be the first resort for radical progressives whenever they seek to silence Black Republicans,” he told the newspaper.

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Palmer, a professional boxer and army veteran, had organized the protest in honor of North Dakota teen Cayler Ellingson who was killed when a man ran over him with an SUV.

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According to Fox News, an affidavit says that 41-year-old Shannon Brandt told the 911 operator that he hit Ellingson because he was part of a “Republican extremist group” and said that the teenager had called others that were “coming to get him.”

But, the news station reported, police are now saying that there’s no evidence that Ellingson was a “republican extremist” or that the incident involved politics at all.

The sold-out event outside of which the fight took place featured performances by local artists and a roundtable with U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib.

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