ROXBURY - Boston Mayor Michelle Wu met with U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, Police Superintendent in Chief Greg Long, and community leaders Tuesday to discuss white supremacy activity in the city.
The meeting, held at Boston Police Headquarters in Roxbury, was closed to the media but attendees made themselves available for comments. It comes after about one hundred members of the white supremacist group Patriot FrontSaturday.
"The meeting today that the mayor and I co-hosted was essentially to tell the Black community, the LGBTQ community, which were both involved -- or the individual that was the alleged victim was a member of -- that we take these threats and this behavior seriously," Rollins said. "We wanted them to know that we understand the climate is really scary in this moment to a lot of impacted communities. We see nationwide what we saw with Jayland Walker in Ohio and Robert Crimo in Highland Park, Illinois in the backdrop of what we're experiencing here in Boston."
Members of theparticipants were seen in Boston on Saturday wearing masks and T-shirts that read "Reclaim America." Some were carrying American flags and police shields.
Law enforcement was unaware a march would be happening, according to Rollins. And once police were notified, they were unable to stop it because of the group's First Amendment rights.
Charles Murrell, 34, said he was assaulted by the group near the intersection of Dartmouth and Stuart streets. He told police he was surrounded by men carrying shields and after a shoving match, he ended up with cuts on his head, hand and eyebrow.
Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief Greg Long said officers didn't see the assault firsthand but "there's a lot of video that's been recovered and again, I mentioned this inside this meeting, there's a lot of detectives assigned to that in an effort to identify those individuals involved in this assault."
Reverend Kevin Peterson, a spokesperson for Charles Murrell, said Murrell's story differs from police. "I believe that if Mr. Murrell were asked if law enforcement was present during the time of his assault he would state the affirmative," Peterson said.
The police department's Civil Rights Division is looking into the incident.
The Anti-Defamation League of New England said the alleged leader of the group, Thomas Rousseau, gave a speech in Boston. He was arrested earlier this month near a Pride event in Idaho. According to the ADL, Patriot Front believes their European ancestors conquered America and left it only to them.
"We know these threats are continuing to escalate across the country and that Boston must be the leading light in how we are acting in a coordinated way in tackling and supporting our community members," said Wu.
"I have learned a tremendous amount in just the last couple days here about the clear distinction between how our law treats terrorist groups outside this country and domestic terrorist groups. That distinction relies very heavily on the First Amendment as a shield in many cases. So there has not been, from my understanding, ongoing surveillance of groups with a certain ideology short of before they reach the threshold of a threat or intent to incite or commit violence," the mayor continued.
She urged anyone who had seen, heard, or read anything suspicious on social media to contact police.
According to Rollins, this is the third "separate and distinct" incident with hate groups in the city this year. On January 22, about two dozen gathered at Brigham and Women's Hospital "with banners that Brigham and Women's kills whites and other espoused ideologies," said Rollins. The other incident took place at the St. Patrick's Day parade with National Social Club-131 and a "keep Boston Irish banner."
"We are working hard to ensure that if there are any federal charges we can bring or if there are any state charges that can be brought, we will be looking at this. We don't want to wait until there's violence, if there are threats we will charge those as well," Rollins said.
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