SL-IG-IBT Bloc Against Rightist Provocation in Boston

On Sunday 25 July, in Boston, Massachusetts, a reactionary religious bigot attempted to disrupt an anti-war protest held in connection with the Democratic Party’s National Convention. The demonstration was called by ANSWER, an anti-war group dominated by the Workers World Party. Roughly 1000 people participated in the event, including supporters of the Progressive Labor Party, Revolutionary Communist Party, Freedom Socialist Party, League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP), Internationalist Group (IG), Spartacist League (SL) and ourselves. In an Indymedia item Charles Maol reported:

"Leonard Gendron, self proclaimed minister of a Church in Lawrence Mass called ‘The Secret Place,’ set up adjacent to the informational tables that represented a wide variety of dissent. Gendron set up an eight foot by six foot sign that showed a graphic image of what appeared to be a partial birth abortion. On the other side of the sign anti-gay slogans were written in large letters."

Gendron set up his bigoted display close to the literature table of the SL, which took the lead in organizing a defense bloc that eventually succeeded in having him removed from the demonstration. The incident was reported on CNN’s Sunday night news. Maol reported that ANSWER’s security people removed Gendron, but in fact it was a bloc of the SL, IG and IBT that spiked this attempted provocation. The following are excerpts from an internal report by an IBT comrade who participated in the incident.

A short while before the march began a couple of particularly obnoxious right-wingers set up camp near the SL with an oversized anti-abortion placard (of the bloody fetus variety) and a very distasteful anti-gay rant scrawled on the reverse side.

A person from the SL, who appeared to be in charge of their security detail, approached me and told me that the SL planned on "clearing them out" and said he had already approached the IG and LRP and wanted to know if we "were in or out." I joined a few IGers and some SLers in forming a ring around the two guys. The rest of the SLers, reporters, and ANSWER marshals surrounded us. One of the bigots beat it, but the one holding the sign (who was probably 6 foot something and 250 lbs) stood his ground. One of the SLers and I were able to knock the placard out of the guy’s hands and he immediately dropped to the ground to retrieve it, but we were able to prevent him from regaining his feet. At one point, he got half way up and took a swing at some of us, but missed and soon ended up back underfoot.

At this point the ANSWER security detail ordered us [i.e, SL-IG-IBT] to back off but we initiated some abortion rights and gay rights chants and drowned them out. There seemed to be some differences among the ANSWER marshals. A few seemed eager to protect the rightist, shouting about first amendment rights (free speech), propriety and appearances. One woman expressed concern that the guy might have been injured in the scuffle and require medical attention (he may have gotten his fingers stepped on, etc.) Others seemed eager to clear the guy out and end the scene and were not so concerned with gentility. For a moment things were tense when the ANSWER security detail, standing nose to nose with us, almost seemed ready to defend the right-winger. But in the end they decided not to and instead assigned a few of their beefier guys to physically pick him up and carry him clear of the park. He tried to take his sign with him but a bunch of us stood on it. After he was gone a few of the IG youth made a point of holding it up and shredding it.

It seemed unlike the SL, which tends to be abstentionist and rather conservative, to initiate such an action. It was also unusual that the SL, usually so sectarian, would seek a united front with the IG, LRP and us. Of course, by any realistic assessment, we were the only groups likely to agree to their united-front proposal.

The LRP was still trying to decide what to do while things were going on. By the time they finally made up their mind to participate, it was all over.

After the fracas we were approached at our lit table by two SLers, one of whom shook my hand and said: "Whatever major disagreements we may have, I think we can agree that was a very successful united front. We struck together. Thank you." I could only agree.

Posted: 28 July 2004