There were those who marched for gun control and those who marched for gun rights Saturday afternoon.
While several thousand people filled Boston’s streets calling for stricter gun control, several dozen people gathered in front of the State House and marched on the Boston Common in defense of Second Amendment rights and as a counter protest to the “March for Our Lives” rally.
The counterprotest was organized by Resist Marxism, a group which also organized a free speech rally in Boston in November and aims to “defend the Constitution against violent extremists and the regressive left,” according to its website. Their rally was met with strong opposition from March for Our Lives attendees.
Michael Moura, one of the organizers of the rally and a spokesman for Resist Marxism, said the goal of the counterprotest was to show patriotic support for the Second Amendment in Massachusetts, a state known for having strict gun laws.
“We’re basically showing a message to whoever is seeing it, especially our lawmakers on Beacon Hill, that we specifically will not accept further infringement upon our constitutional right to bear arms,” Moura said in an interview before the rally.
As the counterprotesters arrived on Beacon Hill, they were surrounded by dozens of city and state police officers. The officers used bicycles to form a barricade between the counterprotesters and a group of activists in support of March for Our Lives who came to confront them.
VIDEO BY SHAUN ROBINSON/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
With chants of “no more fascists” ringing in the background, Robert Johnson, 21, stepped back from the police line. He said he felt the Second Amendment has been threatened and that many of the March for Our Lives supporters have had no experience with guns.
“They don’t understand what gun laws are,” said Johnson, a resident of Buffalo, New York. “… I don’t know where these guys get off calling us Nazis and fascists. I’m part Jewish — Nazis don’t like me.”
As the two sides continued to hurl insults and chants across the police line, Kerry Bernard and her daughter looked on from across the street. Barnard said she is a gun owner who supports common sense gun control, such as taking away military-style weapons from civilians.
Still, Barnard said she thought the presence of the counterprotesters was productive.
“They have just as much of a right to be here as we do,” Bernard, 47, of Maynard, said. “They’ve got their signs and we’re reading them, and I’m explaining them to [my daughter] so she understands.”
The counterprotestors were escorted across Beacon Street and through the Boston Common by police. Activists formed a peacekeeping barrier between the counterprotesters on the walkways and attendees of the March for Our Lives rally on the grass.
Lindsey Rinder, a teacher from Medford, looked on in tears as the counterprotestors passed her. She said she felt “absolutely dismayed,” especially after coming from a nearby education conference where she heard fellow teachers discuss the difficulty of making students feel safe in school.
“I can respect that you might have an argument to make about the Second Amendment,” Rinder, 40, said. “But if you are wearing a military helmet with a spike on it that makes me think of fascist Germany, and if you are saying ‘come and take it’ next to the assault rifle on your sign or on your shirt, then you are not having a respectful dialogue.”
One of the activists in the line separating the groups of protesters was Doris Burford, 58, of Jamaica Plain. Burford said she disagreed with the counterprotesters’ position and that she was particularly concerned about the National Rifle Association as a political entity.
“I do think the NRA as a whole really threatens us because of the way they’ve injected money into politics,” Buford said. “[They’ve] made it impossible for the kind of reasonable gun legislation that would protect a lot of people [to pass].”
John Camden, 35, of Manchester, New Hampshire, purchased a “Make America Great Again” hat and a Kekistan meme flag — a symbol he said is used to ridicule the political left — from a fellow counterprotester.
Camden said gun control is an ineffective solution to mass violence.
“I truly believe if we have more guns in the hands of true American citizens, there would be less acts of terror that we see all around,” Camden said. “I really do believe that gun control doesn’t stop anyone.”
Mike McDonald, 45, of Canton, was at the counterprotest with his high school-age daughter. He said one solution to keeping her and other students safe is to place armed veterans in schools.
“When you have a gun-free zone, all that that makes is victims,” McDonald said. “Instead of it being a case where you’re going to walk into a place that everybody’s disarmed and you’re holding all the cards in your deck, let’s level the playing field.”
After around three hours of rallying, the Resist Marxism counterprotesters were escorted away from the main protest and out of the Boston Common by the police. March for Our Lives supporters erupted in cheers as the group was led out of the park.
Still, Mauro said he felt the counterprotest was a success.
“We were able to mix amongst the crowd, we were able to hear their speakers pretty well [and] we were able to have some debate with people,” Mauro said.