BOSTON — Jewish activists were on both side of police barricades during the long-anticipated and controversial “Straight Pride” march held in Boston on Saturday.
Beginning at noon, about 200 marchers with pro-Trump floats walked from the city’s Copley Square to City Hall Plaza. Flanked by a massive police presence, the “Straight Pride” participants held signs including, “Great to be straight” and “Build the wall and crime will fall.”
The proceedings were led by British right-wing activist Milo Yiannopoulos, the grand marshal of “Straight Pride.” Calling themselves Super Happy Fun America, the march’s three organizers were well-known local men affiliated with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.
A far larger number of people turned out to protest “Straight Pride,” with at least 2,000 protesters showing up between Copley Square and City Hall.
According to the “Straight Pride” website, “straight people are an oppressed majority.” The march was intended to take a stand for “the right of straights everywhere to express pride in themselves without fear of judgement and hate.”
Among the hundreds of signs held by Bostonians protesting “Straight Pride,” more than a handful mentioned Jews and Judaism. Several students in Jewish Voices for Peace were among the crowd, as well as a young adult holding the sign, “Trans & Gay & Jewish HUMAN.”
The major confrontations between “Straight Pride” marchers and the swarm of protesters took place in front of the New England Holocaust Memorial’s six glass towers. Many of the protesters held signs referring to Nazis and some of the more rousing crowd chants were related to the Nazi-like nature of “Straight Pride.”
Most LGBTQ organizations in Boston, including in the Jewish community, chose to ignore “Straight Pride,” which has been in the works for several months. After attempts to ban the march failed, the City of Boston granted permits to the organizers.
Some Jewish organizations did, however, address the controversial gathering.
“The Straight Pride parade isn’t just stupid and offensive — it’s actually organized by violent far-right groups in Boston that are known for their anti-Semitism and anti-Black racism. It’s the worst. These bigots need to be shut down,” according to a statement from the group Bend the Arc Jewish Action.
“Straight pride is merely another dog whistle, a reaction to majority rejection of overt neo-Nazis. And as we know, neo-Nazis do not stop at targeting gay and trans people,” wrote Corinne Engber in an op-ed for JewishBoston.com.
An Ohio native, Engber studies writing and publishing at Emerson College, whose campus was intersected by the “Straight Pride” route on Saturday.
“They target people of color, people with disabilities and Jewish people,” wrote Engber. “Their hated spreads brutally across minorities they deem undesirable and when one group is targeted, others feel the shockwaves.”
‘The scales have been tipped too far’
Surrounded by dozens of activists yelling “Free Palestine,” Joe Strauss held American and Israeli flags aloft near City Hall Plaza. The 27-year old’s red “Make America Great Again” hat was a tempting target for demonstrators, at least one of whom hurled a fistful of wet earth at Strauss.
“I’m standing here for the things I believe in,” Strauss told The Times of Israel. “I’m hoping if I expose the hatred of the protesters, the world will start to see what’s going on.”
For several minutes, LGBTQ activists surrounded Strauss while hurling chants and raising their middle fingers at him. In addition to “Free Palestine,” some activists yelled “Get out Nazis” at Strauss, who said he is a local engineer.
Saturday’s “Straight Pride” gathering was the first time Strauss ever brought American or Israeli flags to a public gathering, he told The Times of Israel. In addition to being elbowed and pushed by several protesters, Strauss had his hat taken and thrown back in his face.
“But I did not let them bait me into hitting them,” Strauss told The Times of Israel.
“Get your f—king racist frauds and go home,” one woman shouted at Strauss.
“I wanted to send the message that it’s okay to be straight,” said Strauss, who was one of a handful of “Straight Pride” marchers seen engaging with protesters. According to local media reports, multiple physical altercations took place at other locations between Copley Square and City Hall Plaza.
“I think gay and trans is weird but I totally support it,” said Strauss, adding he was raised in an Orthodox environment. “But straights now have factors working against us because the scales have been tipped too far,” he said, referencing decades of the gay rights movement.
At least one other “Straight Pride” activist brought an Israeli flag to the march, said Strauss, adding there were other Jews and LGBTQ individuals gathered in support of the cause on his side of the barrier.
When another “Straight Pride” activist saw this reporter interviewing Strauss, he pointed to his own folded up Israeli flag in a satchel. The middle-age man was talking to a group of people about “the gay lobby’s” crusade against Israel as an attempt to interpret the verbal assault on Strauss for onlookers.
With few “Straight Pride” participants to confront, some parts of the crowd turned their anger against police.
Between City Hall and the Holocaust Memorial, hundreds of protesters yelled anti-police chants and lifted their middle fingers at cops. Others blocked Congress Street to prevent motorcades from starting. Apart from their chants related to ‘Straight Pride’ as a Nazi gathering, the protesters’ only other identifiable sources of anger were Israel and the police.
As the confrontations wore down, police officers were seen taking a break at the Holocaust Memorial. On the other end of the six glass towers, a women stood with her sign, “Queer Jews Against Nazis. Never Again. Never Again.”