Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden announced the addition of civil rights prosecutors at the district and superior court levels due to recent hate-based incidents and concerns of increased case activity in coming months and years.
Among the factors driving Hayden’s decision are the four organized white supremacist actions in Boston this year, a neo-Nazi group protest at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston last year, recent Supreme Court decisions that have roiled the nation and the likelihood of future controversial decisions, the coming mid-term and presidential elections, and statistics showing rising levels of hate crimes across the nation.
“It’s clear to me that Massachusetts and Boston have become target destinations for groups that spread hate. We saw that over Independence Day weekend with the Patriot Front march in Boston and just this weekend with the NSC-131 gathering in Jamaica Plain. It’s also clear to me that Boston is full of passionate, involved citizens who care deeply about current events and don’t shy away from expressing their views. I want to ensure that everyone involved in the wide public forum of ideas can do so without being harmed by others and without causing anyone harm,” Hayden said.
The High-Risk Victims Unit, which handles civil rights and hate crime cases in addition to crimes against elders and victims with disabilities, will now be called the Civil Rights/High-Risk Victims Unit. Hayden is adding two new prosecutors – one assigned to prosecute civil rights cases in Suffolk Superior Court and the other to handle such cases in the district and municipal courts. This approach is designed to better coordinate and prosecute felony and misdemeanor civil rights and hate crime cases.
Hayden noted recent reports of hate literature appearing in Danvers, Hamilton, Ipswich and Chatham, this month’s homophobic graffiti at an LGBTQIA+-friendly housing project in Hyde Park, and a report released by the Anti-Defamation League in March showing Massachusetts had the fourth-highest level of hate propaganda activity in the nation in 2021.
He also pointed out the continued reverberations from the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the possibility of societal strife in this year’s congressional elections and the 2024 presidential election.
The four organized white-supremacy incidents in Boston this year include the neo-Nazi protest at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in February, the NSC-131 gathering at the St. Patrick’s Day South Boston parade in March, the Patriot Front march on July 2 and the NSC-131 protest in Jamaica Plain on Saturday.
“We have profound divisions in our society today and groups eager to exploit those divisions toward their malignant ends. We also have a Constitutional duty to protect free speech—up until the point that it turns into threats or violence. I want to make sure my office is vigilant in fair application of the law and fully prepared when prosecuting people who violate anyone’s personal rights,” Hayden said.
Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden’s office serves the communities of Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, Mass. The office handles over 20,000 cases a year. More than 160 attorneys in the office practice in nine district and municipal courts, Suffolk Superior Court, the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court, and the Boston Juvenile Courts. The office employs some 300 people and offers a wide range of services and programs to serve anyone who comes in contact with the criminal justice system. This office is committed to educating the public about the services we provide, our commitment to crime prevention, and our dedication to keeping the residents of Suffolk County safe.