Counter-protesters pushed through barricades and clashed with anti-maskers on Boston Common in a showdown that left two arrested and others rubbing pepper spray out of their eyes.
The two groups clashed around 11:30 a.m. Sunday as projectiles flew overhead and ralliers pushed past police, kicking through fencing.
“We came here to peacefully protest when we were violently attacked by a mob that pepper-sprayed us, attacked us and refused to allow our van to leave,” said Super Happy Fun America organizer Brandon Navom, who would identify himself only as “Super Happy Brandon,” to a Herald reporter.
Navom said his group — which is behind the controversial straight-pride parade — was conducting a “pro-freedom” protest on Sunday afternoon to speak out against mask, vaccine and other coronavirus-related mandates when the chaos caused police to cut power to the speakers, effectively shutting down the protest.
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Eamon Kavanagh and other members of Boston First Responders United — an organization formed by firefighters, police officers and medics to push back on state-imposed COVID-19 mandates — piggybacked on Sunday’s rallies.
Holding a sign about Gov. Charlie Baker that read, “Baker is a liar,” Kavanagh said first responders “are against the mandates” requiring workers to get COVID-19 shots or lose their jobs.
“We’re just advocating for our freedom, our medical freedom and to keep our jobs,” Kavanagh said.
Counter-protesters organized by Solidarity Against Hate/Boston turned up in force outnumbering Super Happy Fun America ralliers by the hundreds.
“We don’t want that in our city: Anti-vaxxers, people who don’t believe that COVID is real, people that put other people in danger, racist transphobes and people that hate other people for the way they are — that’s not OK,” said Ritla Handelman, an Emerson College student who attended Sunday’s counter-protest.
“They can be really loud and they can get a lot of attention, but this kind of thing is just not welcome in the community and the fact that there are more of us than there are of them is evidence of what the community really is,” Handelman added.
Dozens of police officers, clad in full riot gear and carrying Billy clubs, stood in formation around the Common throughout the afternoon as they worked to keep the crowds separate. A unit of state troopers strapped in helmets and holding shields held a line near the Soldiers and Sailors monument as counter-protesters danced and played music on the hill above.
Boston Police made two arrests during the mid-afternoon protests, officials said.
William Turbitt, 39, of Providence, R.I., was charged with disturbing the peace and interfering with police. Ronald McCarron, 68, of Wakefield, was charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, and driving to endanger after police say Turbitt drove a van through a barrier.
Both will be arraigned on Monday at Boston Municipal Court.
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