A Boston judge has been accused of “overstepping his role” after he denied multiple requests to dismiss charges against some counter-protesters of the Boston Straight Pride event on Aug. 31.
In total, 36 people—including a juvenile—were arrested at the demonstrations, which left four police officers injured.
Those who attended the event claimed they were promoting the heterosexual community, with its organizers including men with links to the right-wing group the Proud Boys, reported WBUR.
Counter-protesters who gathered at the parade accused organizers of creating an atmosphere of violence toward the LGBTQ community, and those arrested face charges including resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and assault.
Several prosecutors requested the charges be dismissed, however most of their motions were rejected by Suffolk County Judge Richard Sinnott, sparking outrage from Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins and others.
In one case, a 26-year-old was arrested after forming a human chain with fellow counter-protesters. Prosecutors’ requests to have his charges dropped were denied.
Responding to prosecutor Jessica Erickson’s comments that she believed the 26-year-old should not be prosecuted despite his inappropriate actions, Sinnott, replied: “Not appropriate? It sounds like he picked up the wrong fork at dinner.”
Only two pending cases of 16 who attended the first arraignment proceedings were dismissed by Sinnott. These were a 63-year-old Vermont woman on a disorderly conduct charge, and a man, 31, charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, according to the Boston Globe.
Rollins, whose office sought to dismiss charges against seven of the protesters, lashed out at Sinnott in a Sept. 4 Twitter thread, accusing him of overstepping his authority and punishing “exercise of individuals’ First Amendment right to protest.”
“The actions of Judge Richard Sinnott are unprecedented and outrageous,” she added on Sept. 5.
“His insistence on arraigning individuals when my office has used its discretion to decline a case is an unconstitutional abuse of his power and serves neither the interests of justice nor public safety.”
“The power to pursue prosecution falls exclusively on the executive branch, not the judiciary. The judge overstepped his authority here, and only an action of our state’s highest court can correct this injustice.”
She said that her office would “use the legal process to remedy the judge’s overstepping … for those people now tangled in the criminal justice system for exercising their right to free speech—many of whom had no prior criminal record.”
“Make no mistake: some people were appropriately arraigned and will be held accountable for actions that put the safety of the public and law enforcement at risk,” Rollins added.