Massachusetts

Protesters clash over mask and vaccine mandates at Boston Common

"We heard there was going to be a rally of anti-vaxxers and white supremacists...and we wanted to help drown that out."

Protesters and counter protesters scuffled during a protest held by Super Happy Fun America and the Refounding Fathers Coalition called, “Rise Against Tyranny Rally” on Boston Common. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)

Hundreds of uniformed officers were deployed Sunday as dueling protests clashed in Boston Common.

Super Happy Fun America, the group behind the 2019 Straight Pride Parade, and the Refounding Fathers Coalition organized a “Rise Against Tyranny Rally” to protest vaccine and mask mandates. A counter demonstration, called “Mask Up Against Hate,” gathered to oppose the rally, and the police presence was largely to keep the two groups apart.

Hundreds of officers erected metal barricades to block off sections of the Boston Common, The Boston Globe reported, but both sides still confronted each other repeatedly in heated and sometimes violent exchanges. Police made two arrests, and though no injuries were reported, Globe photos show protesters and counter protesters spraying chemical irritants, and incidents of pushing, hitting, and hair-pulling.

A counter protester was hit by those attending the protest. – (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
A protester who came to attend the “Rise Against Tyranny Rally” reacts after being sprayed with a chemical irritant by a counter protester. – (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
A protester who came to attend the “Rise Against Tyranny Rally” releases a chemical irritant on a counter protester as a scuffle broke out between the two factions. – (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)

Super Happy Fun America doesn’t consider itself a right-wing group, but it came under fire when two of its leaders were arrested and charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. The Refounding Fathers Coalition doesn’t have a dedicated website, but a “Refounding Fathers Festival” brought together 20 right-wing groups in July in Auburn to honor the “heroes of Jan. 6.”

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Counter protesters marched around the Parkman Bandstand and many barricades to get closer to the rally. Among them was Elizabeth Birdsall, 39, who told the Globe she was helping to push back against those who want to make Boston “less safe and less equal.” 

“We heard there was going to be a rally of anti-vaxxers and white supremacists and so forth, and we wanted to help drown that out,” Birdsall said, “and support safety and equality for everyone in Boston.”

A member of the BPD tried to re-establish the barricade with counter protesters during the Sunday protest. – (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
A protester held a sign during a protest held by Super Happy Fun America and the Refounding Fathers Coalition Sunday. – (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
Counter protesters broke down a barricade during the protest on Boston Common. – (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
Counter protesters lined a barricade during a protest held by Super Happy Fun America and the Refounding Fathers Coalition called, “Rise Against Tyranny Rally” on Boston Common. – (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
Boston Police arrived during a protest held by Super Happy Fun America and the Refounding Fathers Coalition on Sunday. – (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
A counter protester took video while Boston Police dispersed the crowd during the protest. – (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
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