Longtime New Haven activist Barbara Fair and her nephew Keith Dramese Fair are planning to go to court after a counterprotest against a pro-nationalist rally this summer led to their arrests.
Amid a wave of right-wing demonstrations across the nation, the New Haven Green witnessed a pro-nationalist rally and counterprotest this July that quickly escalated to violent confrontations and the arrest of four counterprotesters. Among the four arrestees, the two out-of-town activists — David Simone and Rosanna Raybuyan, both from New Jersey — took a plea bargain on Aug. 14 and agreed to six months of probationary programs. But the remaining two arrestees, Barbara Fair and her nephew, have rejected plea deals and are planning to fight their charges in a Sept. 26 court appearance.
According to a New Haven Police Department press release, a small band of demonstrators who identify as the local chapter of a national right-wing fraternal group called the Proud Boys descended upon the Green for a scheduled event on July 8. Several Elm City activist groups, including Showing Up for Racial Justice, were alerted to the Proud Boys rally and planned for an organized counterprotest in response.
Barbara Fair, who is widely known in New Haven as an activist who engages with police policy and social justice issues, was arrested on charges of interference with a police arrest of her nephew, Keith Fair. Keith Fair stands on charges of disorderly conduct and interference with police.
In an interview with the News, Barbara Fair denied the charge and argued she had been unfairly arrested with excessive force.
Natalie Alexander, a SURJ member and organizer of the counterprotest, said the Proud Boys event was a demonstration against socialism and had invited Augustus Invictus — who headlined the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to the death of one woman — as its recruitment speaker. Invictus never showed up for the event and instead attended a debate in New York on the same day.
The Proud Boys rally turnout, however, was overwhelmingly eclipsed by the counterprotesters, who numbered around 150, she said, adding that SURJ chose not to publicly advertise the counterprotest because it did not want to attract more Proud Boys and other right-wing groups. This lack of publicity, however, led to a “communications failure,” she said, as various activist groups did not reach a consensus on the display and use of physical force.
Alexander added that though a large portion of the counterprotest attendees did not anticipate violence, several out-of-town activists came with the intention of risking arrest and provoking confrontation.
“This is what we mean when we say the left has [been] caught on its back foot,” Alexander said. “We are not practicing coalition and coalitions are what we need to get stuff done.”
The counterprotesters originally planned to stake out on the Green and drown out the rally with nonviolent noises. But as the Proud Boys start to arrive one by one, Alexander said a couple of activists — some whom had their faces covered with bandanas — began to chase the ralliers off the Green while throwing punches and paint balloons.
Simone was arrested after he used an amplified megaphone set to a siren noise in an NHPD officer’s face. His backpack also contained illegal fireworks-type explosives, according to the police press release. Raybuyan was arrested for throwing a paint balloon at a NHPD sergeant, which landed at the sergeant’s boot.
The NHPD statement underscored that the Proud Boys is not affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan or other white supremacist movements. But both the group’s self-characterization and the counterprotesters’ opinions conveyed a message of hate. Proud Boys national founder Gavin McInnes wrote that his organization is not racist because it has members who are people of color. But, the Proud Boys’ Facebook page claims that they are “pro-Western Chauvinism,” “pro-Western Values,” “anti-feminist” and “anti-Islam,” among other labels.
Alexander said that how the Proud Boys describe themselves is immaterial to her.
“I do care that their actions are directly contributing to an escalation of racial violence and a more overt expression rather than a covered expression of white supremacy that has made up the fabric of this country since its conception,” she said.
The New Haven District Superior Court is located at 235 Church St.
Amy Cheng | firstname.lastname@example.org | @Amy_23_Cheng