ED: You see a well groomed garden. In the middle, on a small hill, you see a gazebo.
ERIC: A gazebo? What color is it?
ED: (Pause) It’s white, Eric.
ERIC: How far away is it?
ED: About 50 yards.
ERIC: How big is it?
ED: (Pause) It’s about 30 ft across, 15 ft high, with a pointed top.
ERIC: I use my sword to detect good on it.
ED: It’s not good, Eric. It’s a gazebo.
ERIC: (Pause) I call out to it.
ED: It won’t answer. It’s a gazebo.
ERIC: (Pause) I sheathe my sword and draw my bow and arrows. Does itrespond in any way?
ED: No, Eric, it’s a gazebo!
ERIC: I shoot it with my bow (roll to hit). What happened?
ED: There is now a gazebo with an arrow sticking out of it.
ERIC: (Pause) Wasn’t it wounded?
ED: OF COURSE NOT, ERIC! IT’S A GAZEBO!
ERIC: (Whimper) But that was a +3 arrow!
ED: It’s a gazebo, Eric, a GAZEBO! If you really want to try to destroy it, you could try to chop it with an axe, I suppose, or you could try to burn it, but I don’t know why anybody would even try. It’s a @#$%!! gazebo!
ERIC: (Long pause. He has no axe or fire spells.) I run away.
ED: (Thoroughly frustrated) It’s too late. You’ve awakened the gazebo. It catches you and eats you.
ERIC: (Reaching for his dice) Maybe I’ll roll up a fire-using mage so I can avenge my Paladin.
I don’t like going to protests, political rallies, and other things like that. I think they’re important, I think they are good things to go to, but I generally find the experience to be uncomfortable. That said, there are times when I think it’s important to bestir myself, and go participate.
When my wife and I decided to go, it was in response to the shit show in Virginia, and I admit that my first impressions and expectations of the “Free speech rally” we were going to counter-protest were wrong. Because of the violence in Charlottesville, I put more thought into what to bring than I did for the science rally in April. I didn’t want to be an active participant in a riot, but I did want to be able to provide medical assistance if needed, and help defend people if needed.
After working on that for a bit, I finally bothered to actually look into both what the organizers of the free speech rally were saying, and what the Boston PD was saying, and it immediately became clear that this was not going to be anything like Charlottesville, so I chilled out, and ended up just bringing a water bottle. I guess what I’m saying is that the rally we were there to protest was blown a bit out of proportion. This was not another gathering of open and proud white supremacists.
That said, they were the sort of libertarians who like providing white supremacists with a platform in the name of free speech, and I think that’s a problem. My take on tolerance is basically what you can find in Zunger’s piece Tolerance is not a moral precept: Tolerance is a peace treaty – if you violate the terms, you lose the protection the treaty provided. White supremacists have not only violated the terms of that treaty, they were never part of it in the first place, and have always been openly hostile to the notion of such a treaty. Among their many other foolish and misguided ideas, libertarians seem to effectively be under the impression that we shouldn’t wage war against the Third Reich, because we made peace with England that one time, so that means we don’t fight anyone anymore.
So, I went to the protest. I have to say I was impressed by the efforts of the Boston PD. It’s clear that they also didn’t want a riot, and so unlike the cops in Charlottesville, they had made plans to keep the two sides separate as much as possible. There was a sort of fenced-off DMZ creating a lot of space between the Dread Gazebo that held the libertarians, and the huge crowd of anti-supremacist demonstrators. There were a couple dozen people in the gazebo when we got there around noon,
and a couple thousand people protesting the bigotry they were tacitly supporting.
Overall, it was peaceful. It was a hot day, and the Yellow Face seared into my gollum-like skin, so I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible. About 20 minutes after we got there, AntiFa came marching down the path – a group of about 20 people – and stopped at the fence to join the chanting and so on. Various chants bounced around the crowd, along with a beach ball that never quite made it over to my section, and overall things were pretty relaxed. I didn’t have a good view of the fenceline, but it looked like one or two people hopped the fence, and then crossed back into our crowd when the police told them to.
Around the time the gazebo crowd began to pack up, it looked like some conservative-type fellow had planted himself smack in the middle of the AntiFa group, and things started to get a bit heated, with occasional shouting and aggressive chanting. He ended up getting shoved a couple times, but other protesters stepped in to break up the violence, and the crowd took up a “no violence” chant. Most of the gazebo people left with a police escort, and were driven away from the event in police vans, but a couple decided to walk through the counter-protesters, resulting in ripples of people that reminded me of a murmuration.
We left to get lunch and head home close to 2pm, around the time the big march began to arrive, and it was incredible to see how the big crowd that had dwarfed the Gazebo Libertarians was, itself, dwarfed by the mass of humanity that was marching to Boston Common. It really was an incredible turnout.
Although I’m aware that there was some conflict with the police at some point, I never saw the riot police that were apparently on standby in some side street. All the police I saw were in pretty standard uniforms with neon vests, and were pretty relaxed. It’s also worth noting that the crowd did an amazing job of following police instructions to not bring backpacks or anything that could be used as a weapon. At the science rally, there were many, many signs on sticks, and an AntiFa group about the same size had shown up with flags on pretty solid-looking poles. Yesterday, there was none of that. All the signs were hand-held cardboard and paper, and there were very, very few backpacks.
There’s a lot going on right now that makes me despair for our future as a nation, and as a species, but yesterday’s rally left me feeling hopeful, to see so many people turning out stand up for what’s right. On that note, here’s a video of a couple bystanders witnessing the majesty of our crowd:
(For the visually impaired, and those who want to know more, the video shows two women of a British persuasion in a canoe watching what looks like hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of starlings flying overhead in a mesmerizing, shifting flock formation known as a murmuration)