Two weeks after more than thirty people were arrested protesting a self-described “Straight Pride” parade in Boston, tensions between Boston police, protesters, and everyone in between seem to be growing instead of simmering down.
The latest waves of dissatisfaction rippled through the Boston City Council Wednesday.
Boston Councilor Timothy McCarthy called for hearings on a potential ordinance prohibiting protesters from covering their faces with masks or hoods.
Rising to address fellow Council members, McCarthy echoed repeated claims by Boston Police officers and the Boston Patrollmen's Association – claims disputed by many activists – that protesters, not police, had been out of hand, and indeed violent.
“When did protests that equal violence become society’s norm?” asked McCarthy.
McCarthy said he is motivated by concern for public safety and especially by concern for the safety of Boston police officers.
“When did people wake up in the morning and say, ‘Hey, let’s go to a peaceful protest, but don’t forget your razors, and your keys for handcuffs, and your face masks in case you get urine and bleach that you’re throwing at the cops, you don’t want to get that in your eyes,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy emphasized that he has no intention of targeting head coverings worn for religious purposes, and attempted to preempt inevitable questions about free speech rights, noting that there is precedent for such laws, including laws banning Ku Klux Klan members from wearing hoods in public.
Council members praised McCarthy’s intentions – if not quite his proposal – echoing support for Boston police officers.
But some, including Councilors Josh Zakim and Michelle Wu, said that while they sympathized with McCarthy's concerns, they had their own concerns around protesters rights and could not support the move.
It's unclear whether such a measure would be constitutional.
It wasn’t the only vocal show, meanwhile, of support for Boston police officers amid clashing narratives over how the protest was handled and whether protesters or police acted inappropriately.
Another Council member, Althea Garrison, offered a separate resolution Wednesday praising Boston police officers and proposing to offer the Council’s “unwavering support” to the Boston Police Department and Boston Patrollmen's Association.
That prompted Councilor Lydia Edwards to rise.
“I absolutely support the police, I have family members who serve right now,” Edwards said. “But I don’t support this resolution.”
“I don’t believe it is actually intended to support the police,” Edwards said,
“I believe it’s intended to support a political agenda, and to kick those who are protesting or call to hold the police accountable – to make them really the perpetrators.”
“So I do not support this resolution but I continue to support the Boston police officers … This resolution does not help the situation,” said Edwards.
Councilor Michelle Wu offered similar response.
“When we talk about trust with community,” Wu said, “All of us … do have to recognize that the LGBT community in particular has a history with conflicts with law enforcement, with police violence.”
“I think in order to use this opportunity to grow trust with that community, as opposed to threaten it or create mis-perceptions that will affect that trust, I request this docket have an opportunity for conversation in committee,” Wu said.
Citing Wu’s objection, Council President Andrea Campbell announced that the resolution would be held in committee.