Courtesy of Miriam Morrison
On Saturday, September 11, the Natick Recreation and Parks Department held their annual Natick Days festival. It’s an opportunity for local non-profit organizations and youth groups to advertise their work. At the festival, there is food, entertainment and music. Every year, the event has thousands of attendees. This year, among the guests were a group of right-wing protestors.
The group, Super Happy Fun America, arrived towards the end of the official event. They stood in front of the First Congregational Church in Natick Center, holding signs and making speeches.
“I noticed it at 3:00 because I was with my friends and we had gone over,” counterprotest attendee Pluto Van Vorhis said. “There was a little bit of a small crowd, and then further into the afternoon it was gaining more traction.”
The group is most known for their 2019 Boston Straight Pride parade and participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. They have participated in and hosted several rallies in Massachusetts including the 2019 Boston Straight Pride parade, several anti-mask “Reopen Mass,” “Back the Blue” and pro-Trump rallies. Via an online poster, the group stated the intentions of their Sept. 11 event to be: “Memorialize service members killed in Kabul, protest botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, demand that no Americans be left behind and hold the Biden administration accountable for their failures.”
“They were largely expressing, in this particular event, a condemnation of Joe Biden related to Afghanistan, but they also had some general themes represented by the straight pride flag,” counterprotest attendee Ian Mevorach said. “They also had some anti-immigrant themes.”
Natick resident and town meeting member Suzanne Ianni was a lead organizer of the protest. In July of this year, the FBI arrested Ianni for her involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Her charges included entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building.
“Ianni gave a speech, who I think is one of the lead organizers.” Mevorach said.
In response to the demonstration, social justice leaders in the area planned a peaceful counterprotest. The group stood on the lot across from the First Congregational Church. The police separated the two groups to ensure that no interactions would occur.
“Overall it was a very joyful experience, the people who gathered, some that I knew, some that I didn’t know,” Mevorach said. “We had really nice art that we made with positive messages about peace, being a loving community and so on. We were singing songs, talking and processing.”
For a traditionally liberal town such as Natick, the presence of a group such as Super Happy Fun America was disquieting. As a result, the counterprotest garnered positive support from the community.
“[Super Happy Fun America] was kind of shocking to people at Natick Days because it’s not what you usually see in Massachusetts because it’s a very liberal state,” Van Voorhis said. “I think the counter protest was helpful in some way, to know that there are people fighting for people’s rights and not trying to take them away.”