For the past several decades, Americans have lived their lives absent of any large-scale political violence. The notion was almost inconceivable, a relic from a past that seemed difficult to imagine repeating. And then Trump was elected. Since then, there've been pitched battles on the streets of Berkeley, brawls on the beaches of Los Angeles and limos burned in Washington, D.C.
Now, the birthplace of the American Revolution, Boston, is set to be the next battleground.
On Saturday at noon, a collection of far-right groups will hold a "free speech" rally in the Boston Commons. Advertised as a "free speech rally," the event bears all the hallmarks of similar demonstrations that routinely explode into street brawls; the event has drawn the attention of a coterie of far-right reactionary groups legendary for their street violence with counter-protesters. And the local anti-fascists will be ready for them.
The original ad for the event, posted by a local teenager, is careful to hedge the potential for violence by positing it as self-defense. The posts for the event are emblazoned with the visage of Based Stick Man, the avatar of right-wing brawler Kyle Chapman, made famous for his violence at the recent brawling in Berkeley between right wingers and anti-fascist activists.
"Bring stickman basics at LEAST," the teen's original ad for the event said. "Boston is saturated with Antifa. Expect a shitload to be there. They WILL be violent."
And then, later in the posts, there are qualified disclaimers. "DO NOT: Come to this event if you're a skinhead or plan to act like one," said one warning. "If you are a skinhead, dress like a normie, but assist during skirmishes. DO NOT: Come planning to instigate violence. Any fights must be strictly defensive or after Antifa have thrown smoke into crowd etc.," said another disclaimer.
The call to action has attracted the attention from a who's who of A-List purveyors of Trump-era political violence. The teen organizer has been in touch with the Proud Boys and the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, fraternal reactionary fight clubs that plan on showing up for the rally. The Oathkeepers, a national organization of former police and military veterans that the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as one of the largest radical anti-government groups in the country, has also put out the call for its members to show up.
The teenager, who expects at least 200 right-wingers to attend, insists the event isn't meant to provoke violence. "I think we need to make it clear to everyone that is not what we are there for," he said in an interview via Facebook. "We are there to celebrate and defend our rights as Americans."
Whether or not the teen is serious about keeping the peace, right-wing activists have taken up the call to stir up a violence confrontation. The page for "Boston Antifa," a fake Facebook group set up by a few pro-Trumpers in order to draw leftists into a conflict, has been trolling with videos and calls to action for the past month.
"This could very well be similar to Berkeley but with more police presence and violence," the administrators of the page said over Facebook, still in character as anti-fascists.
While the "Boston Antifa" might be fake, the very real anti-fascists in the area are ready to clash. The North Shore Antifa are marshaling a counter-protest from a coalition of leftists in the area. In other words, they know that the event is bait, and they intend to take it anyway.
"It is clear that their intentions have more to do with spreading hateful far-right rhetoric and general malevolence towards antifascists and leftists than with 'free speech,'" North Shore Antifa said in an email. "However, the threat they pose when allowed to organize without opposition is too great to ignore."
Chapman, the Based Stick Man himself, is expecting to attend, putting out a call to his "soldiers" to show up ready for the a fight. "Let's show these punks what we're all about," Chapman wrote on Facebook, calling his followers to Boston. "Time to cowboy up!"