Youth vs. age in face-off over police, racism

Rally across from Town Hall, Sept. 10, 2020. / Marjorie Howard photoRally at Town Hall Plaza, Sept. 10, 2020. / Bob Sprague photo

Dueling rallies Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, told the tale of at least two Arlingtons.

The main face-off was at Town Hall Plaza and across the street, with a separate rally at Whittemore Park, whose participants later walked over to the main protest site and increased the numbers opposite Town Hall.

The public duel was over police -- who supported them and who didn't -- as such rallies portray complex events in broad outlines. The duel was also about racism in the context of a national debate about who oversees police following violent events against people of color in Minneapolis, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

Protesters gather at the edge of Whittemore Park. / Marjorie Howard photoProtesters organized by Arlington Fights Racism gather at the edge of Whittemore Park. / Marjorie Howard photo

Crowd estimates, residents

Among the 200 or so estimated total participants on all sides -- the numbers were hard to gauge -- viewpoints were likely more nuanced than the two hours of raised voices. While two sponsoring organizations were from out of town, the majority of rallygoers appeared to be from Arlington. Police and participants reported no violent incidents. Most involved wore masks, but there was little social distancing.

Involved in staging the events were America Backs the Blue, a nonprofit based in Abington, with a local cheerleader, Elizabeth Pedrini of Woburn, wife of Arlington officer Robert Pedrini. Its supporters were at Town Hall Plaza, vocally backing police, as town Chief Julie Flaherty stood among them under a Black Lives Matter banner.

Across the street were opponents with signs calling to defund police. They were supposed to be part of Solidarity Against Hate, a Boston group, but YourArlington identified no members.

And about two blocks away, at Whittemore Park, was an active group brought together by Arlington Fights Racism, which has called for firing officer Richard Pedrini, whose inflammatory published comments in 2018 have roiled some in town ever since.

Different locations, different age groups

Here are brief looks at the three locations.

Orange barricades lined both sides of Mass. Ave., and so did a strong police presence, as a hard shower fell at about 4 p.m. Even so, the groups on both sides grew.

Some differences were clear. Many of those at Town Hall Plaza were age 50 and older. Across the street, those from teens to upper 20s predominated.

At the plaza, participants pointed to a large number of town residents. Opposite them, Nate Goldshlag of Arlington, older than most of those around him, handed out flyers. Younger sign holders said they were from Arlington and Medford.

See more photos >>

Solidarity Against Hate's Facebook group describes it as a "coalition of community groups and individuals who have been mobilizing against fascist organizing in Boston since 2017," adding, "We believe yesterday’s anti-Back the Blue demonstration was a success. While we did not significantly outnumber the BTB [Back the Blue] rallyers, we made them feel unwelcome and foolish. Their side continually tried to start scuffles with our side and we were able to deescalate them into backing down. A big thank you to Arlington Fights Racism for organizing locally; we hope to work together again in the future."

It is worth noting that America Backs the Blue of Abington disavows any connection to Back the Blue -- a group that Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine condemned earlier in the week as racist.

In front of Swanson Jewelers, youthful voices offered many chants, including "No justice, no peace" and "No KKK, no racist U.S.A." Those at the plaza sometimes answered.

The music playing at the plaza provided one clear contrast: Bobby Darin's 1959 hit "Beyond the Sea." It sounded pro-nostalgia, though a sea of American flags did wave. Some of the flags were striped with one blue line, whose history you can read about here >> 

“That thin blue line, that’s the line between law and order and chaos,” Arlington firefighter Capt. Chip Ryan told Fox 25. “Our police keep us safe.” He is the brother of Fred Ryan, the former police chief.

Arlington resident Joyce Radochia, who told WBUR that she is "not a rally person," said she came out with her husband, Bob.  "because it was time" to support law enforcement. "They're not always in the right, but they're not always in the wrong," she said.

Horns sounded from passing trucks, but it was unclear for whom they blew.

Manager's support

On Friday, Sept. 11, Chapdelaine sent this memo to the Arlington Police Department. It addressed one of the grievances that America Backs the Blue said led to the rally -- that "the APD has received absolutely no support from the town over the past few months”:

"I am writing today to express my most sincere thanks and appreciation for your commendable efforts in the face of very difficult circumstances yesterday. From what I have heard and observed, you all dispatched your duties with the professionalism and care that has long been the hallmark of the Arlington Police Department. Without question, you all highlighted the value that you provide as members of the Arlington community.

"I also understand that some of you were subjected to both verbal and physical attacks and while I am very sorry to hear that this happened, I am also proud to know that you maintained your professionalism and integrity in the face of these assaults.

"I am proud of the Arlington Police Department in good times and bad, and you showed the whole community yesterday that you are more than deserving of that pride. I want you all to know that I support you and the work that you do and I appreciate all that you do to keep Arlington safe."

Sept. 9, 2020: Officer's wife says Town Hall rally supports police

This news summary was published Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. 

Media partner

Site stats: October traffic | Cambridge Day: News >> 

Latest comments

Guest - Jane Arnold Alewife Brook sewage campaign: Meet Dec. 4
13 November 2022
Sometime about 1998 four children, ages 7 and 8, spent several hours retrieving trash from Alewife B...
Bob Sprague Letters: Emailing Advocate & Star? Copy it here; it'll be published first
17 January 2022
Let the public know with a letter to the editor. For details, see

Your Businesses

Your People

Barbara McOwen.

McOwens: A half-century Highland fling

One small corner of the world's heritage of tunes and dance, thousands of miles away from where they began, is being kept fully alive by two longtime Arlington residents. Preserving traditions underlying Scottish fiddle music and Highland dance are Barbara and Robert McOwen. INSIDE ARLINGTON:Among…
Marie Krepelka is awarded the Paul Harris Award by Arlington’s Rotary Club, 2018. Photo – Ashley Maher

Veteran Select Board administrator Krepelka dies

Marie Krepelka was awarded the Paul Harris Award by Arlington’s Rotary Club in 2018. / Photo by Ashley Maher UPDATED Nov. 1: Two days after Arlington’s Select Board honored its longtime administrator, Marie A. (Spelman) Krepelka has died. At the board’s Oct. 24 meeting, members and town staff…

Housing Authority

FACEBOOK BOX: To see all images, click the PHOTOS link just below


Support YourArlington

An informed Arlington
keeps democracy alive

Why we are your news source >>

Donate Button

YourArlington is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
Your contributions are tax-deductible.

Your Arts

Your Restaurants

Your Events

Your Police, Fire

Your Democracy

Your Housing

Site Partners