Images by Chris Faraone
DigBoston is a tiny outlet with a small budget in a medium-size city that happens to wield a major influence on a giant America. And while it’s typically encouraging that the intelligent ecosystem here serves as a sociopolitical juggernaut, in the wake of the most polarizing rush-hour debacle on record, it felt like our progressive voice belonged only to a wee minority, those who saw an act of courage in the blocking of a highway by protesters last week.
If you’re tuning in from outside of the Hub, consider this the ominous eye-wink of a hostage at the front door who’s signaling that an abductor has a gun to their head: These Boston liberals are full of shit! They joke, smile, even take a day off every winter to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But give most of ’em an inch of column space, and their knowledge of the Civil Rights leader is more selective than that of an ISIS soldier cherry-picking Koran verses. Take, for example, the Facebook rants of Democratic State Rep. Colleen Garry of Dracut, who has shamelessly suntanned in the tabloid spotlight gleaned from her attachment to a bill that would criminalize peaceful direct action, the sort of thing that would make Putin blush. From her greatest hits:
How on Earth can you NOT say those protestors on Thursday were not STUPID!!! [Ed. Note: She’s saying they’re intelligent]. I stand by that completely!! None that I know of were constituents but if they were…I would call them STUPID again in a heartbeat!!! In regards to referring to them as college kids…that was my information at the time.
In the throes of so much hideous hyperbole, it was awfully telling to see who and how many Greater Bostonians came out this week to march in memory of Dr. King. According to irate white people and those pretending to believe that causing delays is an act of violence, there should have been nothing but young Caucasian millionaires stroking one another’s dreadlocks while they blew off spring semester. In reality, the scene at Monday’s 4 Mile March better reflected the dream for which King is remembered than does any angry Twitter troll or neolib opinion-monger. Young, white, old, black, immigrant, and homeless marched together; at one point, it looked like there were at least 1,000 heads. If you’re wondering why your ignorant uncle suggested otherwise on social media, it’s because he’s probably as interested in their demographics as he is in the message carried through their bullhorns: “Racism continues unabated in this country.”
The march drew many of the people whom the highway blockade naysayers scorn, from college kids in ski coats to the very activists who jammed the interstate with oil drums. Also present, however, were the peaceful protesters and people of color whom Residents Against Civilians Instigating Serious Traffic claim they stand behind. They chanted, spoke out, died in, and issued demands:
- Jail Killer Cops
- Justice for Families in Boston and Massachusetts
- A Living Wage
- Defund Prisons and Fund Communities
- End Mass Incarceration
- No Boston Olympics
- Stop US Imperialism
Those topics haven’t registered too loudly in the media, or with the public. Some protest adversaries claim that this is because average people stopped listening due to gadflies interrupting traffic, but that’s complete horseshit. If they genuinely cared about any of those issues, it wouldn’t make a difference to them if Al Sharpton hosted an N.W.A. reunion on an off-ramp. At the very least, they would be more vocal about state brutality than they have been about some ambulances being redirected.
Back on the rally route, all movements seemed peaceful. Dogs. Strollers. A couple of grandmas and grandpas. Not everybody had a blast; at one point, as the march passed cemeteries on the Freedom Trail, one cop moaned to another that the “Founding Fathers must be rolling in their graves.” For the most part though, even the police seemed seemed calm, and why shouldn’t they have been? Monday’s demonstration went exactly how authorities had hoped, with protesters simply circling the Common, and cops having control over the situation.
Given their chants and frustrations, it was obvious that those participating on the ground gave up on the moderate media and Democrats like Colleen Garry a long time ago. It’s doubtful many of them were expecting much collective sympathy from Massholes who still proudly say their families moved out to the suburbs to escape busing. Marchers on Monday sung: “I can hear my neighbor crying, ‘I Can’t Breathe.’” As we’re reminded every time an unenlightened dimwit exhales privileged lies and bigotry, their similarly fortunate neighbors are breathing just fine, and that’s all that really matters to them.
Any honest person watching demonstrators Monday could have separated fact from fiction, the reality of their makeup from the fantasies so many haters have concocted. But those activists on I-93 stopped more than cars and trucks; they also provoked people to stop being polite, and to start getting real … dumb. The last few days have been a coming out party for closeted Archie Bunkers, and fair-weather lefties haven’t proven themselves too much classier.
Not that anyone should be surprised by any of this. We don’t have to travel back to King’s time for a glimpse at how fickle Boston is in its approval process. Sometimes it just takes a while for locals to recognize heros. Just look at the Arredondo family, which not too long ago was the target of police surveillance and harassment due to their anti-war activism. A prolific demonstrator who lost a son in Iraq, Carlos Arredondo says he was arrested with excessive force while protesting outside of Boston Police Department headquarters in 2009, during the funeral procession for Senator Ted Kennedy.
All these years later, Arredondo is internationally recognized for his heroism in the aftermath of the attack on the 2013 Boston Marathon. At the same time, we seem to have conveniently forgotten that he was once considered dangerous and subversive by the same powers that now praise him. That’s not to say that Arredondo or anyone else compares to King, or that either one of them necessarily subscribes to radical traditions like those espoused by the highway disruptors. Whatever the case, their legacies are all for history to judge, and whether it takes five years or 50, time tends to favor those who stick their necks out over those who rubberneck.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.