Tens of thousands of people mobilized in Boston on August 19 in a magnificent display of solidarity against a rally that far-right and neo-Nazi forces had been organising for weeks.
Defying sweltering summer heat and humidity, thousands marched and chanted their way through the streets of Boston.
About 15,000 took part in a two-mile march from Roxbury Crossing to Boston Common, where the white supremacists were gathering. But by the time the march arrived, the two-dozen or so fascists had already packed up and left, with the help of a heavy police escort.
Another 10,000 people who wanted to show their opposition to the right came directly to downtown Boston, gathering where the white supremacists planned to meet or at a smaller demonstration on the steps of the State House.
The horrible neo-Nazi violence one week earlier in Charlottesville, Virginia, convinced many that they had a responsibility to make a statement against the far right. As protesters gathered in Roxbury, there was anxiety mixed with angry resolve about what the day might hold.
But by the time the march ended, the fear had melted away, replaced by confidence in the power of solidarity and a sense of jubilation that the far right’s mobilisation had failed utterly to achieve any of its goals.
The march received support from dozens of organisations in the city: unions, NGOs, liberal groups, leftist and activists groups and more. In particular, the march from Roxbury — which members of Black Lives Matter played a key role in organising — gave people the opportunity to gather into a large force away from where the far right was gathering.
This gave confidence to groups such as the Massachusetts Teachers Association — the state’s largest union — to mobilise their members to attend. This tactic, combined with a single point of unity in opposition to the fascists, helped mobilise a huge turnout.
“I’m here because my Japanese-American grandparents were sent to an internment camp during the Second World War,” said local resident Ashley as she carried a Black Lives Matter sign. “The other side of my family is Mexican, and Trump’s whole campaign was built on slandering people I love. I also felt like I needed to come out against the president — as a woman and as a survivor of a sexual assault.
“After Charlottesville, enough is enough. We need to stand up, and I want to build a better world for my kids.”
The huge turnout filled the crowd with energy, despite the withering heat.
The sense of power and pride among those who marched on the side of justice stood in sharp contrast to the ineffectiveness of the far right. By the time the Roxbury march arrived at the Common, the far right had already been forced to evacuate.
A third rally, organised clandestinely by anarchist forces, was attacked and pepper-sprayed by riot cops. Activists are circulating a petition calling on the city to drop all charges against those arrested.
The impact of the sharp shift in the political climate after the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville — and the viral spread of the VICE News documentary about the white supremacists who caused it — can’t be overstated.
In recent months, even as the far right and those inspired by them carried out murders at the University of Maryland and in Portland, Oregon, and left a noose at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, many considered them a threat that could be ignored. Charlottesville changed that.
The events of August 19 showed that mass mobilisations are effective and can have a lasting on the confidence and organisation of all those who care about social justice.
[Abridged from US Socialist Worker.]