Part Two (PART ONE HERE, The Burning Confederate Flag Flag)
I woke up a little too early last Saturday, the day of the counter-protest in Boston, so to kill a little time I made one last little sign. I had arranged to meet up with my friends at the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial [the Glory Brigade] at the top of Boston Common. It had occurred to me that it would be good thing to highlight a good Civil War statue for a change, rather than those evil monuments to White Supremacy that have been causing so much trouble of late, so I wanted to do something about that.
I knew the statue featured benches, so I made a freestanding folding sign that would sit on a bench functioning as something of a caption for the day. I wasn't sure whether I would use the bench directly under the bronze or the bench in the back under the inscription, so I made the sign reversible. When I got there a rally of counter-protesters was already under way using the rear bench as a stage, so that settled that. Earlier arrivals had tucked bouquets in the hands of the troops accompanying Shaw, which was nice. I set the sign on the bench and took a couple of pictures, as did many of the counter-protesters milling about.
Then my people showed up and I realized I could tuck it right behind Shaw's horse's hoof. It hadn't been designed for that, so it didn't fit perfectly, but it was still readable and it would probably stay longer in the statue than on the bench and it would probably make a more dramatic image. Which it did. Dramatic enough to catch the eye of Boston Globe photographer MARTIN FINUCANE. (Scroll down).
Then I unfurled the Burning Confederatate Flag Flag. Here's my sister waving it, with the "Freedom Fighters Here, Nazi Scum Over There" sign and the flowers in place. (Click Source for Hi-Res):
The flag was an instant hit, drawing a small crowd by itself in front of the statue. During a lull in the speakers on the other side of the statue, I took it to the steps and waved it. When the crowd saw it they spontaneously cheered. Hundreds of them. What a rush.
The rally behind the statue ended, or got boring, I forget which, so we decided to wander over to the action by the Parkman Bandstand where the Nazis were congregated. As we approached and crowd got bigger we had to slow down because people kept asking for pictures of the BCF Flag. I got asked well over a hundred times, maybe more, including by the A.P. photographer, who took my name. Unfortunately, as I later discovered, somebody on the Fight Supremacy! March from Roxbury had ACTUALLY BURNED AND ACTUAL CONFEDERATE FLAG and that made better copy, so the A.P. went with that instead.
My flag stood out so sharply that in a way it took over my day. Not that I'm complaining, it's just not what I expected. My earlier experiences had been that I carry around a sign for a bit, people laugh, take a few pictures, then I go about my business being an ordinary member of the crowd. Except for the times I settled in one place with stable group of people, never a minute went by that I wasn't being asked for a picture of the flag. That was enormously fulfilling but also tiring and distracting. I took many fewer pictures than I normally take and from the minute I unfurled it. Where normally I'd have taken two hundred pictures including twenty or thirty signs, this time I took about fifteen pictures of two signs, not counting my nephew David, who had commissioned me to make the 45-Swatstika sign:
The BCF Flag so dominated my experience that I forgot to ask for or take reciprocal pictures, as when a former student, Erin, came running up to me to laugh and cheer and have her Mom take a picture of her with the old professor. And then there's the thing about how I FORGOT TO TURN ON MY BODY CAMERA. I had a fully-charged Go Pro Hero Black capable of about four hours of video and all I got was thisthirty seconds worth of action, as the police escorted a Nazi or two through the crowd after their pathetic rally ended:
We decided this was one guy in the middle, but it could have been two or three
Which wouldn't have mattered much except for the Cardboard Cop.
The Cardboard Cop
The authorities had set up about a hundred yards of No Man's Land between the Nazis and the counter-protesters via barricades. The Nazi were not at the Parkman Bandstand listening to speakers from the Bandstand, as is usually the case for these kids of things. They were in the Bandstand talking to each other and waving flags at us, as you see in the background of the photo above.
So I decided to work my way to the barricade and wave my flag back at them. After a few seconds, the policeman pictured came over and said "I have to take that pole."
To which I replied genially, "No, it's not a stick, it's just cardboard," holding it out for him to check. I had anticipated such a check, and expected him to say something like "It might be a pipe," in which case, I'd tell him to squeeze it, or that "It might be hiding a weapon," in which case I'd tell him I left it hollow, at which point he would hand it back, perhaps with a chuckle.
But he said nothing like that. He knew it wasn't a pipe because he was already squeezing it and he knew it was hollow because I had made sure he could see that as he approached What he said was "I'm going to have to take it anyway."
"What?!" I asked sharply, "Why?"
"Because they might think it's a real pole," he answered, referring to the Nazi scum in the Bandstand.
"So what?" I said, my voice rising, "It isn't a real pole."
The folks at the barricade started to chime in, too, "Why should we care what they think?" and "Just tell them it's cardboard if they ask."
All of which created just enough commotion that it drew the attention of another, white-haired cop who silently joined his comrade.
"It's cardboard," I appealed to the second cop, hoping he might be senior and say, "You can give it back," But he didn't reply to me at all, he just smiled a shit-eating grin at me, then at his buddy, then at me again.
"I followed YOUR guidelines," I said, louder and angrier as it became apparent I had lost.
"You can keep the flag," he said,"But I have to take the pole." We had each been holding the cardboard, me at the end, him in the middle, but he gave it enough of a tug that I knew I better let go, so I did.
The crew at the barricades and I started asking for badge numbers, but neither cop complied, although one of the witnesses later noted that the first cop was a member of the Northeastern University Police.
The cop fumbled trying to remove the flag, so I said "It's glued on the inside, and give me top back, too," concluding sarcastically, "that's not going to hurt anybody," so he ripped the eagle off and threw it at me, then tore the flag out of the tube.
"Fuck you," said I as he tore up the cardboard. His shit-eating-ginning fellow cop was still grinning, so I gave him a "Fuck You," too, then childishly whined, "I followed the rules." I turned back to the first cop again and give him four more "Fuck Yous" as the second cop kept grinning, which pissed me further off and the "Fuck Yous" got louder as the grin got shit-eatinger.
The first cop finally handed me the flag and as I pulled it over the barricade I looked at the second cop one last time and shouted, "Fuck you ... PIG" and that finally wiped the grin off his shit-eating face as I hurried back into the crowd.
After telling my people what happened, I left the flag with them and went back to the barricade to ask the nearby witnesses if anyone had caught the exchange on their phones. Can you believe in this day and age that nobody had? And That I had been wearing a body camera and forgot to turn it the fuck on? So as the next best thing, I exchanged twitter handles with some of them so at least we could create a set of witnesses.
Now here's the thing
That policeman at that time was not concerned with his sworn duty, public safety. If he had been, his instant and spontaneous response would have been to address the question of public safety, but it was not. He announced he was confiscating the pole before he knew whether it was a weapon or a potential weapon.
His overriding concern was sympathy for the Nazi scum in the Bandstand. The Guidelines set by the Boston Police Department itself didn't matter to him. The objective physical truth about the cardboard did not matter. Nope, that cop was worried the Nazis would feel bad. Otherwise, there were very simple expedients at hand, easier than ripping up my cardboard pole. Like radio up "That flag is attached to cardboard."
Given that ABOUT NINETY PERCENT OF POLICE OFFICERS ARE TRUMP SUPPORTERS, between the couple of hundred cops and hundred Nazi scum, most of the persons inside the barricades had voted for Donald Trump and the racist White Supremacy he champions--as opposed to the 40,000 of us outside the barricades who had almost certainly not voted for Trump.
And you will never convince me there was not an ideological reason that cop singled me out. I think he hated my Burning Confederate Flag Flag as much as the Nazis in the Bandstand did, if they saw it, which is doubtful but possible.
Buzzfeed News reported on Friday that "POLICE AROUND THE U.S. ARE BRACING FOR NEWLY EMBOLDENED WHITE SUPREMACISTS" but I think that is incorrect. If you read the article, almost everyone quoted is either an elected official or an official appointed by an elected official. There are very few very few rank-and-file police in the article.
That's because the "Police" are not "bracing" for White Supremacists, they are embracing White Supremacists.*
Being in a position to "Fuck you" a cop multiple times without consequence was, I admit, cathartic in a way, and, really, the cardboard itself was a trivial matter. Every other part of the day was exhilarating, even transcendent, most of all the example we gave to the world, of which I was only 1/40,000th.
But at the end of the day, the Cardboard Cop part was disheartening. At the beginning of the day I had been secretly hoping that the police would signal, if only by a wink, that they with us on this side of the barricade, not them on that side.
I got the opposite message from those two policeman. And that is more than disheartening, it's frightening.
*Notwithstanding that ninety percent figure I have a feeling not all rank-and-file police, not even all police departments feel that way. When we met up again at the Glory Brigade statue, my sign and the flowers were gone. Pretty much as I expected. But it turned out, they weren't removed by people hostile to the counter-protests (although I had seen some Proud Boy eyeing my sign shortly after I put it up), but by Federal Park Rangers.
Turns out, while the Boston Common is under Massachusetts' jurisdiction, the thirty square feet of the Shaw Memorial is its own tiny National Park. And the Park Rangers had just moments earlier carefully removed the sign and flowers and placed them respectfully next to the bench, apparently so that those who had placed them there could take them back. So I got the "Feedon Fighters Here" sign back.