In March of 1770, a group of British troops found themselves accosted by a mob of angry colonists in Boston. The soldiers were pelted with rocks, snowballs, and struck with clubs. Finally, one soldier fired his weapon in self-defense, and the other troops followed suit. When the smoke cleared, three colonists lay dead. Eight others were wounded, and two of those would later succumb to their injuries.
The event became known as the Boston Massacre, and was initially a public opinion coup for Patriot activists like Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, who held up the shooting as another bloody example of cruel British rule. At trial, the soldiers were successfully defended by future U.S. president John Adams, who highlighted the difference between the actual events and the propaganda that followed by saying, “Facts are stubborn things.”
Yesterday, 250 years and two months removed from that shooting on King Street, a second Boston Massacre may well have taken place on Beacon Street, in the shadow of the gold-domed Massachusetts State House. Nobody got shot, everyone walked away, but if COVID-19 was there, the massacre that may ensue will put the events on King Street so long ago in deep historical shade.
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Around 2,000 “Reopen” protesters gathered at the State House in Boston yesterday to demand the lifting of the stay-at-home orders and social distancing strictures. Openly defiant, they crowded together shoulder to shoulder and back to front in a tight space outside the gate from the State House steps, and almost none of them were wearing masks.
If COVID-19 was in that crowd — a distinct probability given the burden of infections Boston is enduring –it probably made a whole bunch of new friends, people who will bring their unmasked defiance home to spouses, elderly parents or immunocompromised neighbors, and the disease will spread further, and the pandemic will grow worse.
Those protesters may believe they can run through the COVID-19 raindrops without getting wet. If they do, it will be the first time such an escape has happened anywhere in the world since this thing began.
The event, labeled “The Liberty Rally,” was organized by the far right organization Super Happy Fun America and promoted by local conservative radio host Jeffrey Kuhner, who used his WRKO radio show and Twitter account to encourage attendance. Kuhner is little more than a boilerplate far right agitator who got his big media break promoting anti-Muslim hate and wants to be Rush Limbaugh when he grows up.
Super Fun Happy America, however, is another matter entirely. They came to public notice when they organized a “Straight Pride” parade in Boston in 2019. The “parade” came off limply, and the attendees were vastly outnumbered by counterdemonstrators. The organizers attempted to paint the “parade” as a lighthearted attempt to claim “Straight Lives Matter,” but the intentions of this organization are deadly serious. Super Fun Happy America is an appendage of the far right organization Resist Marxism, whose leaders and associates are among the most violent fascist and white supremacist activists in the country.
“While the idea of a few dozen angry straight people marching might be funny, the actual origins of Straight Pride Parade are not. The event is a front for a far right group founded by notorious right-wing brawler Kyle ‘Based Stickman’ Chapman,” wrote Daily Beast journalist Will Sommer last year. “At least one Resist Marxism event had security provided by Patriot Front, a white nationalist hate group.”
These are the people who were behind the Boston protest on Monday, and their presence as the motivator for the event is telling. For one thing, the crowd was festooned with every kind of pro-Trump sign and gear you can imagine. After the Charlottesville debacle, the White House got mostly out of the business of openly endorsing fascists, but I don’t believe all that Trump gear at the protest fell conveniently out of the sky.
This is hardly the first instance of far right Trump-supporting groups conjuring “Reopen” protests out of a U.S. population that massively supports the stay-at-home/social distancing protocols. In Michigan last month, a cohort of gun rights agitators organized a small but heavily armed group of protesters to menace the Capitol building in Lansing.
“On the ground, pro-Trump figures — including some who act as surrogates for his campaign — as well as groups affiliated with prominent conservative donors have helped organize and promote the demonstrations,” reported The Washington Post on April 19.
It is worth noting that Trump himself tweeted his block-letter support for those Michigan protesters, as well as for similar gun-heavy protests in Virginia and Minnesota. The White House is mostly out of the business of openly endorsing fascists … unless Trump is on Twitter, that is.
Jeffrey Kuhner, the main speaker in Boston, made it clear that the organizers of “The Liberty Rally” were deeply aligned with Trump’s view of the COVID threat. “It’s not a pandemic!” he cried as the crowd chanted, “It’s a hoax!” in the same cadence as “Lock her up!” Kuhner wasn’t finished. “The reason why they’re doing this,” he said, “[is] to turn the United States of America into the United Socialist States of America.”
Thus, the hand is tipped. Trump and his allies are pushing hard to reopen the economy, even if it comes to cause 200,000 infections and 3,000 deaths a day by June, a projection touted in a report produced by Trump’s own government. The protesters may have an array of motives, but Trump and his allies appear to be primarily motivated by a drive to save capitalism, even from itself.
If the federal government actually starts helping people — by way of assistance funding to states and individuals, as well as a mass testing regimen to properly track the pandemic — Trump and his allies fear that capitalism will lose its stranglehold on the nation. People will see that government can work, and in their increasing desperation, will seek that deeply needed help.
Kuhner explicitly explained why Trump and his allies are refusing to do everything they can do to suppress this pandemic, and are in fact willing to accept a new wave of massive death: A fear of “the United Socialist States of America.” The dreaded s-word, resurrected once again, as a bugaboo to frighten people away from the idea that government can be a force for good in a time of crisis.
If that idea is allowed to take root, all the terrible gains made by the capitalists — slowly but surely sought and secured since the days of Franklin Roosevelt — will fall to dust. They will sacrifice you to keep that from happening.
The organizations and their backers who are promoting these protest gatherings are putting Trump’s own supporters in grave danger. COVID-19 has begun a hot burn through the states that helped carry Trump to the White House. “Since March 29, Michigan gained an additional 31 high-covid counties overall; Florida gained an additional 28; Pennsylvania gained 31; North Carolina gained 40; Wisconsin gained eight; and Arizona gained five,” reports The Washington Post.
By now, it is abundantly clear to most folks that Donald Trump doesn’t give a damn about people who do not support him with slavish adoration. Trump’s personal promotion of these far-right “Reopen” protests, along with the heavy presence of his campaign at the actual rallies, and the fact that the so-called “battleground states” that carried him home in ‘16 are being overtaken by the virus, makes it clear that he does not care about his own people, either.
This is about the money, and what Trump must do to make it happy. If that gathering in Boston on Monday becomes yet another vector in a state that saw 1,000 new COVID cases and 86 COVID deaths on the same day, that second Boston Massacre will be on Trump’s head.
There is the act, and there is the propaganda that follows. It was the same 250 years ago as it is today. Yet facts remain stubborn things. Stubborn as COVID-19.