A man who claims to support the police got about 30 people to join him outside the E-5 police station in West Roxbury, where for two hours this afternoon, they shared a relatively small space on the sidewalk with a similarly sized group of people who want to defund police, each side screaming and bellowing at the other and only occasionally trying but failing to punch out some opponents.
At one point during the festivities, "Back the Blue" rally organizer Tony Federico of Abington and several of his followers lustily bellowed "Fuck Joe Biden!"
One follower, armed with one of those blue-stripe flags, moved into Centre Street, where he screamed "Fuck Joe Biden!" into the windows of cars whose drivers had stopped only because it was rush hour and they had to wait their turn to get into the Holy Name rotary. Many of the windows were open because, aside from some humidity, it was a nice afternoon for rolling them down; at least until some guy started screaming into them.
He also had a blue-stripe flag, but had trouble keeping it up; good thing it wasn't a real flag, because that would be disrespectful:
That the two sides were crammed into the same small stretch of sidewalk marked a change in tactics by E-5 for protests at the rotary.
Last year, police tried to keep opposing sides on different sides of the rotary; this year, though, after Federico's group set up camp in front of the police station, police did nothing to stop his opponents from marching from their gathering spot outside Holy Name around the rotary and to the same sidewalk in front of the station, where they began chanting slogans such as "Patrick Rose, overtime, no money for BPD crime!" at Federico's group, which up to that point seemed content to just stand their waving the American and blue-stripe flags Federico had brought with him.
At one point early on, the beefy Federico was blocked by an equally beefy supporter of defunding police. Words were exchanged; there would be no meeting of the minds. Federico went to his white Tundra truck, which he had parked right on Centre in front of the station, and got out three bullhorns, He put two of them up to his blockers's ears and turned on their sirens full blast and then just stood there, pointing the sirens at the guy.
In addition to battery-powered sirens, Federico also had a large speaker, which was pumping out what sounded like Stevie Wonder, until police told him that was going too far and made him stow it away:
Still, despite all the screaming and taunting and sirens, the party didn't really get started until newly failed at-large City Council candidate Donnie Palmer pulled up on his Harley and started taunting the supporters of police defunding while waiving a blue-stripe flag on a wooden flagpole. After awhile and possibly after getting bored with just waving the flag and being all scornful, he used the flagpole to try to smack a couple of protesters in the head; they reacted by grabbing the flag and tossing it on the ground.
E-5 officers, busy standing right in front of the station entrance, well behind the temporary barriers they had put up, did not react.
Palmer exchanges bon mots with his opponents:
Next up was Federico, who got into a scrum with protesters, in particular with his counterpart beef, with whom he'd been bellowing chin to chin earlier.
This time, police moved in and separated the parties. Not long after, one of Federico's pals, looking like a very angry and heavily tatted up and bearded Curly, took a swing at some protesters. He didn't connect. Again, police moved in and dragged him away, towards the 7-Eleven. At first the protesters jeered him, but then they turned their attention to the police, yelling at them "All cops are bastards! ACAB! All cops are bastards!"
When not busy trying to punch people, the man took time out to pose for a photo of a fan - while a protester joined in:
When they began to chant "Defund BPD!" Palmer tried to respond by starting a chant of "Defund BPS!" but nobody joined in. He was a bit more successful in getting some of the Federico crowd to start chanting about school vouchers, to which their opponents had no riposte.
Rayla Campbell, who wanted to run against Ayanna Pressley last year but couldn't get enough signatures, arrived about the same time as Palmer and used a bullhorn to tell the protesters to go back to "your mamma's basement."
The last major joust of the evening came not long before Federico got in his truck and pulled away around 7:20 p.m. He had a cooler in the bed of his pickup and, as the sweat on his back glistened in the gleam from a nearby streetlight, he offered it to one of his opponents. Wary, she refused, but he again offered and said some words no doubt soothing enough to convince her he was really offering her some cool water on a warm evening. She reached out for the bottle. And he snapped it away, grinning at how he had just psyched her out.
After surveying the scene a bit longer, he got in his truck and drove off, presumably back to Abington, wherever that is.
At least one back-the-bluer dressed up for the occasion (that's Rayla Campbell to his right):
Just in case, a couple of medics arrived with the supporters of police defunding (also on hand: observers from the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild):
Why limit a protest to just one issue?