Over two hundred on the other side of a fenced off area in downtown Boulder told the Proud Boys white supremacist group that they were not welcomed in Boulder. Some walking along the Pearl Street Mall stopped just to see what all the yelling was.
Holding US flags and shouting obscenities and hate language such as “fa–ot”, about 30 stood in front of Boulder County Courthouse behind a police barrier on Saturday.
Announcements of the group’s arrival circulated on social media and on flyers placed around Boulder. One read in part:
“Free Speech is a misnomer as their typical events are more accurately described as hate speech rallies” or “brawls.” They usually arrive armed with melee weapons and megaphones, and spout their hateful rhetoric in hopes of starting a fight (which they usually succeed in doing.) Make no mistake – this is a violent Neo Nazi group which advocates reduced civil rights for women and ethnic minorities, as well as casually advocating ethnic cleansing and rape. They are not patriots as they claim, nor are their events about free speech.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center that monitors hate groups in the US describes those who identified themselves as “Proud Boys” as a “fight club.” The SPLC writes, “A new fight-club “fraternity” of young white, pro-Trump men is being formed, its organizers claim, to defend free-speech rights by “Alt-Right” leaders and engage in street fighting.”
Some standing behind the barrier holding US flags and wearing “Proud Boy” t-shirts were neither young nor men.
Plenty of yelling came from the larger group who opposed the presence of the Proud Boys. Several from the larger crowd yelled, “Get out of my town!” Some yelled obscenities. While the Proud Boys repeated that they were advocating for “free speech,” those in the crowd repeated back that “hate speech is not free speech.”
Others in this crowd sang, prayed, and chanted, “We-are-the popular vote!” and “Love trumps hate!”
In response to hats worn by Proud Boys bearing Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” the larger crowd chanted, “Two-four-six-eight. America was never great!” Many joined in to the tune of When the Saints Come Marchin In to sing, “All trans folks are welcome here, all trans folks are welcome here. Oh how I love thee as my neighbor. All trans folks are welcome here.”
Some from the Proud Boys began infiltrating the larger crowd where heated arguments broke out. One Proud Boys supporter attempted to recruit from the larger crowd to stand behind the barrier with the Proud Boys with no success on the platform of “free speech.” But the arguments only escalated with those refusing to join in repeating, “Hate speech is not free speech.”
At least three people were detained including a minor child. One person yelled out, “First they let these fascists do this, and now they’re arresting children? He was just protesting.” The minor was not arrested, but there was another arrest later on. Charges are not clear.
Standing with the counter-protesters was a woman who identified herself as Diane, “I don’t want people like that in Boulder. I think Boulder stands on principles of love and peace and I don’t want people of hate in our city, so I came to support and tell them my own opinion. Whether it made a difference or not, I feel like it did. And I feel better about it and I’m glad I came out to tell them my opinion.”
Adilene is a student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, “[the protesters were] a very small group and we just came here to show that we don’t agree with the hate speech and fighting Nazism has been an American tradition since forever. We’re not here for that. We don’t agree with hate speech.”
(click on individual photos for a larger view)