They’ve been labeled Nazis, fascist, racists, evil-doers, and about every other negative moniker one could hang on them, but the organizers behind last weekend’s Straight Pride Parade (a group known as Super Happy Fun America) said they are none of the above.
In fact, during an interview preceding a lively press conference on the grounds of the Bunker Hill Monument Aug. 29, members of Super Happy said they simply want to promote the idea of having people calmly talk about the issues facing American culture – in particular issues like gender, sexuality and moral values.
Samson Racioppi, chairman of the Board of Super Happy, said he lives in Greater Boston and studies law in the city, and as a former military serviceman, he said he wants to end the identity politics that have hamstrung the public square.
“We tell people we’re a civil rights organization,” he said. “We believe what we’re doing is the ignition of a new, modern revolution. We’re are all in agreement that we need to remove the identity politics that is coming out of predominantly the (political) left. And when I say revolution, I mean revolution in terms of an intellectual revolution…I and most of us are really just free speech advocates. This is not Anti-LGBTQ at all. It’s pro-heterosexual. That’s different. We are very upset at corporations that want to include diversity for financial gain. Companies like Netflix co-opted the LGBTQ movement because they think it can make them money. Our movement, in part, is pushing back against that…We’re taking back the public square so we can have peaceful discourse.”
John Hugo, president of Super Happy and a former candidate for City Council in Charlestown’s District 1, said by trying to promote their free speech message – which is heavily colored with support for President Donald Trump and his re-election campaign – they have received death threats and other such messages.
He said they have been “doxed” by groups associated with Antifa – a grass-roots counter-protest movement that sometimes uses violence and intimidation as a tactic to shutdown opponents. Doxed, he said, refers to a practice of calling an employer and pressuring them to fire someone based on their political or social stances.
“We are a civil rights organization and a heterosexual rights group and that’s absolutely not anti-LGBTQ,” he said. “There is a difference. We’re not at all interested in what you do in your bedroom and believe that’s your business. None of it, though, belongs in the public schools. We’d like to see them get back to more reading, writing and arithmetic and less of the social justice engineering stuff. Many people are too scared to speak up about their concerns on this because of the blowback they’ll get. Free speech is for everybody. Everybody wants to have free speech they agree with, but the true test in these times is allowing speech you disagree with. When people threaten us with violence for our speech, that crosses the line.”
Their message of free speech didn’t resonate so well with many who showed up on Saturday to protest their Straight Pride Parade that started in Copley Square and proceeded to Boston City Hall Plaza. A heavy police presence was on scene from the beginning of the day, complete with SWAT units and mutual aid officers from surrounding cities.
Boston Police had cordoned off an area for the Parade marchers and the rally that prevented those wishing to protest the free speech effort from mixing with those wishing to march.
It was a raucous affair, though, from the get-go.
Police and protesters clashed quickly and 34 people – mostly from the counter-protest crowd were arrested on charges ranging from assault, carrying a weapon and simple disorderly conduct.
At several points, officers used pepper spray, or mace, to control the counter-protest crowd that had begun to get rowdy in some areas. For the most part, protesters who weren’t out of control indicated a message of respect for the struggles of the LGBTQ community.
One protest sign read, “Straight Pride is a mockery of the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Yet, Super Happy members said their group formed not out of a desire to lessen LGBTQ community, but to get an even playing field in the public square.
Racioppi said their movement came out of a situation where their friend, Hal Shurtleff, attempted to have the Christian flag flown over Boston City Hall in response to the Pride Flag being flown over City Hall in June. Mayor Martin Walsh and the City denied Shurtleff’s request, and Racioppi said that started many in their group thinking about fairness in the public square.
That’s when they decided to apply for a Parade permit, which they could not be denied under their Constitutional rights. The City did issue that permit for last weekend, a Parade whose grand marshal and keynote speaker was controversial conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos.
Racioppi said they are not racists, white supremacists or fascists, but are labeled as such because their opposition has no good argument against their free speech demands. He said today’s free speech is only free for those who agree with one another.
“Right now it seems there is an agenda and if you’re not part of that agenda, you’re a white supremacist and that’s that,” he said. “When it comes to gender issues, these things are very new in our culture, but there is no discussion allowed. We can’t even have a discussion about that without being labeled a bigot. That’s not free speech. That’s why I believe speech is under attack.”