Wu says Boston will work to be prepared for future hate group demonstrations

Law enforcement was caught off guard by a white supremacist group’s demonstration in Boston last weekend, according to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

Both Wu and U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins said they were told by Boston Police and the FBI that neither agency had advance warning that about 100 members of the group Patriot Front planned to march through downtown Boston wearing face coverings.

Investigators said they are now reviewing video recordings from the scene to identify members who allegedly assaulted a Black person.

Wu said the city needs to be better prepared for the next time there’s a public demonstration by a hate group.

“We will continue to work in partnership with community members as we strategize and plan and coordinate to respond to not one-off incidents, but this growing rise and trend in white supremacy and hate,” she said.

Rollins said her office is “working hard” to determine if there are any federal or state charges that can be brought against the group.

“We don’t want to wait until there is violence,” she said. “If there are threats, we will charge those as well.”

Patriot Front is a white supremacist group with chapters in over 40 states — including Massachusetts, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Thirty-one members were arrested in Idaho last month following a tip they were planning to attack a Pride event.

But police received no warnings before the march in Boston. Special agent in charge of the Boston FBI Field Office Joseph Bonavolonta said they can only intervene if they learn about a specific threat of violence in advance.

“Vile or repugnant hate speech can be at times covered by the First Amendment,” he said. “If it rises to a level where there is threat or use of force or violence — that is where we can and have gotten involved in and initiated investigations.”

Law enforcement officials asked the public to contact police if they have information about future demonstrations white supremacists might be planning in Greater Boston.

This story was originally published by WBUR, a partner of the New England News Collaborative.