A Melee in Boston


BOSTON—The Veterans for Peace stood on the wings at Sunday’s anti-war protest in Boston Common, next to their banners, patiently, willing the media to notice. But the hacks were distracted, first by the pretty women who make up the Axis of Eve, and then with the attack on pastor Leonard Gendron, an anti-abortion activist. Gendron’s sign, with a big fetus and the words “Jesus sets us free from demons of sodomy,” was ripped apart in the melee, which lasted for a full half hour before the police arrived.

The spectacle was too much for Mike Hoffman, a burly veteran from Berkeley, California, who wore a tie-dye and wraparound shades. “Cover the issues, you cocksuckers!” he screamed at reporters. He looked ready to explode. “We just had a three-day conference, with over 500 veterans, and the media covers this,” he complained, calming down slightly. “John Kerry is trying to out-terrorist George W. Bush. He’s sold his soul to this idea of being president.” Hoffman’s family arrived, and by then, he looked perfectly placid.

By last evening, Gendron had also recovered, and had put together a new sign, this one reading both “John Kerry is a sick son of the devil” and “America needs Jesus.” It looked hastily constructed. “That homo-sex sign was double-sided,” he fumed, flashing his new one at cars leaving the Red Sox game. Gendron, who says he favors an American theocracy, got at least as many nods of approval as disgusted stares. The crowd waiting outside Avalon for the Rock the Vote party seemed not to notice him at all.

Inside Avalon, Howard Dean rocked a not very celebrity-filled crowd (the Kerry sisters; Natalie Portman; some guy from The Real World). Like the other former presidential candidates in town, Dean is altogether more relaxed, and it’s a lot easier to watch. The red-meat speech is virtually the same (“even the Costa Ricans have health insurance!”), but at another event, he spoke softly. In front of a sign that said “Hate is a learned behavior”—a benefit for the Matthew Shepard Foundation—Dean called the governor of Oklahoma an “embarrassment.” That state recently enacted a law that invalidates adoptions by gay parents in other states. Dean called his audience “footsoldiers in the fight against hate.”