NLG-Mass Litigation Committee Files Suit Against BPD and BRIC

“Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher.  For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example […].  If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”  These prescient and powerful words written in dissent almost 100 years ago by Justice Louis Brandeis in Olmstead v. United States stand as a mantra for the National Lawyers Guild’s continued monitoring of disparate and discriminatory police misconduct both here in Massachusetts and around the country. They are definitely a motivation behind our recent lawsuit filed against the Boston Police Department (BPD) and its seemingly lawless Patriot Act companion, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), due to their utter lack of transparency and failure to comply with basic legal requirements under the public records law, MGL c.66. (see NLG press release) The lawsuit addresses the BPD’s and BRIC’s possible complicit lack of response to the planned and openly disclosed march of white supremacist, domestic terrorists known as The Patriot Front on the streets of Boston. (see The Daily Free Press article)

On July 2, 2022, over 100 members of the Patriot Front group from multiple states crossed into Massachusetts and gathered to conduct a march on the Old State House and Boston City Hall.  The members of this group armed themselves with police-style shields from a previously parked U-Haul, and proceeded to march untrammeled through the streets of Boston while wearing white masks and carrying flags promoting their hate-filled white power agenda.  Along the march route, they engaged and assaulted multiple individuals, including a young Black man named Charles Murrell, whom they swarmed, beat and lacerated with their shields and other weapons.  This march had been planned for quite some time, was visibly being promoted on social media by Patriot Front members, and yet there was little to no police presence on the streets of Boston to address this planned march by a group known to have engaged in multiple acts of violence while attempting to cloak their activities as protected 1st Amendment protests.  When police ultimately DID make their presence known, according to witnesses they seemed more concerned with acting as escorts for the Patriot Front marchers and less interested in protecting people, especially counter-protesters, who were being threatened and harmed along the route.

One of BRIC’s operational responsibilities is to monitor the activities of groups like the Patriot Front and to advise local law enforcement so they can respond appropriately, yet on this occasion BRIC failed to see what a number of ordinary folks following publicly accessible social media sites were able to see, which amounted to what one former Boston Police and Homeland Security official referred to as “an intelligence failure of significant proportions.”

On October 8, 2022, the Guild’s Litigation Committee filed a Public Records request under M.G.L. c.66 §10 with Boston Police and BRIC, requesting any and all records in their possession, in a commonly readable electronic format, relating to the Patriot Front march, their internal discussions relating to it, how to address it, and any video or audio in their possession regarding the march.  The public records law requires that records holders must make production not later than 10 business days following the receipt of the request.  On September 13, 2023, almost a FULL YEAR after our initial demand, Boston Police finally deigned to respond with some limited production, some of it in unreadable formats, and making excuses and incorrect legal arguments about why they shouldn’t respond based on a “public safety” exemption which was inapplicable.  In all, only 8 of the 29 records responses were readable.  What we DID learn from what we could read was that despite the public statements from Boston Police officials and BRIC that they had no advance notice of the march, or what the Patriot Front was, internal communications indicated that they did have prior knowledge of the march and their prior history of bad actions.

This is not the first time that the Guild has had to square off in court against the intransigence of the Boston Police Department and BRIC; in fact, this is the FIFTH time we’ve been forced to bring actions in Superior Court simply to get the entity that is charged with enforcing the laws of the state to actually comply with them.  From Occupy Boston to Straight Pride to discriminatory police responses to protests regarding Black Lives Matter and the ongoing strife in Gaza, based on the content of the message, Boston and federally supported law enforcement agencies need to be dragged into compliance, and that’s what we will continue to do as part of the Litigation Committee’s mandate.  When Boston Police and BRIC actively obstruct the public’s right to police transparency, their accountability is undermined and compromised.  

We are hopeful suits like this and others, crafted with the solid work of attorneys like Jonathan Messinger, Jeff Petrucelly, Doug Smith, Lee Goldstein, and our wonderful intern Ben Fanucci-Kiss, will force these entities to comply with the law, but until they do, we will continue to vigilantly pursue justice for the public in the face of those who would seek to obscure the truth.