Pictures by Chris Faraone | Additional writing and reporting by Jonathan Riley and Cady Vishniac
If you’re unfortunate enough to have friends who read about current events and watch the occasional newscast, you’ve probably heard laments like “What the hell is going on?” quite a bit recently. On that note, it seemed too optimistic to wait for the end of July to review this past month of mayhem. Considering the tortured state of global and domestic affairs, we might not make it to August.
Happenings in Boston fit the apocalyptic pattern. By the time work let out last Tuesday, hundreds of pro-Israel protesters and more than twice that many Palestinian advocates crowded the Copley Square area for a rally scheduled to begin at 5:30pm. With so much tension in the summer air, all involved parties showed up early to gain prime positions, including more than a dozen Boston cops and roughly half that many Massachusetts troopers.
Peacekeeping was difficult. According to former Occupy Boston organizers who were out in solidarity with pro-Palestine forces, last week’s was the biggest protest in the Hub in years. Helicopters hovered. Passing cabbies stopped and cheered. At the center of it all, rally-goers exhaled blistering mouthfuls at their adversaries, with the black, white, red, and green team chanting, HEY ISRAEL WHAT DO YOU SAY? HOW MANY KIDS HAVE YOU KILLED TODAY?, and the blue and white side charging YOU BOMBED THE MARATHON just one block from the finish line. It wasn’t Boston’s finest moment.
Of course this didn’t start in New England. In the latest theater of the never-ending battle for the Gaza Strip, Hamas resisters have indiscriminately fired rockets at Israel, while the latter has responded with a brutal multilateral assault that’s also clipped civilians. At the time of this writing, hundreds of Palestinian homes have been bulldozed, with about 6,000 injured and in excess of 1,000 slain. In the opposite direction, Hamas has launched over 1,000 attacks on Israel since July 8 and reportedly killed dozens. And that only covers about 150 square miles of earth’s increasingly fiery inferno.
Also rocking July headlines were pro-Russia militia warriors in Ukraine, who apparently torpedoed a Malaysian airliner in mid flight. In the wake of said murder of approximately 300 passengers – among them at least six AIDS researchers – governments abroad have promised harsh recourse against Russian President Vladimir Putin. So you can rest assured that situation is handled.
Closer to home, Texas governor Rick Perry announced plans to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border, where they will combat the surging menace of hungry, unarmed child refugees. In his own response, President Barack Obama has declared the situation a “humanitarian crisis,” and has proceeded with his own costly programs that run ideologically counter to those militarized efforts. It shouldn’t matter for much longer, though, since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the planet broke heat records in both May and June, with oceans hotter than in any other month on record.
Mass is also burning. In an organized effort to thwart investors from looting the Market Basket chain of New England grocery stores, thousands of employees took their pickets to the parking lots. The skinny: Market Basket is one of the last companies anywhere that provides living wages and profit-sharing for retail jobs that don’t require a higher education, and now a team of suits who haven’t stocked a single shelf in the store’s history have taken over.
Back at the rally on Copley, after nearly an hour of simmering, the pro-Palestine crowd of more than 1,000 bled across Dartmouth Street and onto Copley Square, then made its way to the staircase outside Trinity Church and on to Beacon Hill. In the shadow of the Golden Dome, 23 demonstrators wearing tags with the names of dead refugees laid across Beacon Street in silent protest, while hundreds of their allies engaged in intense verbal fisticuffs with pro-Israel hordes on Boston Common.
By the aforementioned scene outside the State House, about an hour before the crowd finally dispersed at 10pm, a young tourist couple, map unfolded, walked past the rally and spectacle holding hands. As the out-of-towners made their way across Beacon Street, both sides of the spat began howling and accusing one another of unspeakable atrocities. Looking frightened and annoyed, the woman in the couple looked at her partner and asked, “Is there an easy way that we can get around this?”
To her dismay, there wasn’t.