After Straight Pride, a Showdown Brews Between Rachael Rollins and Boston’s Judges

At issue are the arrests of 36 counterprotesters.

AP Photo/Steven Senne, File

After this weekend’s Straight Pride Parade, 36 counterprotesters had been arrested and were set to appear in court—and now it seems that DA Rachael Rollins and Boston’s judges have different plans in mind for the consequences the charged should face.

In keeping with her platform pledge to halt prosecution of low-level and poverty-connected crimes, Rollins recommended a lenient approach to the counterprotesters’ cases, calling for either dismissal of charges or release without bail. However, Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard J. Sinnott tasked himself with upholding the charges anyway. While prosecutors asked for dismissal of charges against nine of the 16 individuals who came before Sinnott Tuesday, he refused to drop the charges against all but two.

Joshua Abrams, a Stoneham resident charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, was ordered held without bail—despite the serious health concerns his lawyer raised.

“What’s somebody with severe health problems doing at a riot?” was Sinnott’s response.

In a separate courtroom, Judge Thomas Horgan also warned three men—from Providence, RI and Bethlehem, PA—to “stay out of Boston” except for work and future court dates, or risk 90 days in jail. Accused of assaulting police, the three were released after pleading not guilty.

Rollins issued a statement Tuesday night defending her office, expressing her disapproval, and promising to continue fighting for the counterprotesters. “By compelling arraignment in every case, the judge punished the exercise of individuals’ First Amendment right to protest,” she said. “For those people now tangled in the criminal justice system for exercising their right to free speech—many of whom had no prior criminal record—I will use the legal process to remedy the judge’s overstepping of his role.”

Tuesday, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley weighed in on the judges’ showdown with Rollins, saying the judges perhaps overstepped in their rulings. “It’s not germane to what I do, but according to what is under the jurisdiction of our Suffolk County DA, it seems to be an overreach,” she said.

As counterprotesters began to make their appearances in court, videos of police action during the Straight Pride Parade gathered steam online, raising questions regarding police officials’ conduct. Activists allege that the police used excessive force, pushing people and pepper-spraying crowds without provocation. Boston Police says they will review officers’ conduct, which is required any time police must use force, and the ACLU has opened an investigation as well.

According to Boston Police, four officers were injured by counterprotesters, and are still out of work. “We couldn’t be happier at the moment with the judge that’s on the bench,” said Larry Calderone, the Vice President of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, told CBS. “We are here to make sure the DA prosecutes these offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”

And Governor Charlie Baker seems to be on the same page. “The administration does not condone violence of any kind and was pleased to propose and sign legislation strengthening penalties for assault and battery on a police officer,” a spokesperson for Baker told the Boston Herald