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The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Boston clowns march against anti-abortion demonstration

Aiden Stein
A group of clowns walks parallel to participants of the Boston Men’s March. The clowns played music during their counterprotest to the anti-abortion organization’s march.

Over 40 clowns marched down Commonwealth Avenue Nov. 4 as a counterprotest to the Boston Men’s March, an anti-abortion protest. The clowns, donning colorful costumes, makeup and red noses, paraded a marching band alongside the Men’s March, playing music to drown it out and counter its solemn tone. 

Musicians from the Boston Area Brigade of Activist Musicians, or BABAM, accompanied the clowns, playing drums, trumpets, saxophones, melodicas and a sousaphone. Other demonstrators brought bells, kazoos and vuvuzelas to amp up the noise. Cheerful renditions of “Pop Goes the Weasel,” “The Imperial March” and “Entrance of the Gladiators” served as the soundtrack to the anti-abortion march.

The clowns gathered early in the morning outside Boston University’s Agganis Arena to meet the Men’s March on its route from the Commonwealth Avenue Planned Parenthood. The clowns marched along the sidewalk next to the Men’s March, which spanned the length of the westbound side of Commonwealth Avenue to Boston Common, escorted by Boston Police on motorcycles. The Men’s March is a national anti-abortion organization that travels to different cities to hold events. 


This year was the Boston Clown Parade’s second counterprotest. The march spawned from a Reddit post calling to counter last year’s anti-abortion Men’s March. The first march was a success, so the clowns returned for round two. 

“Last year on Reddit someone made a joke about how it would be really funny if some people dressed as clowns and played music the entire time,” said the march organizer, going by the title of “supreme clown leader” after declining to give their name for purposes of anonymity. “Me and a couple other people all independently messaged that person and said, ‘hey, if you’re not organizing this, I will.’”

Word of the march spread through social media.

“I saw it on Reddit,” said protester Laura Duran. “There is a discount Halloween store by my work and I saw the post and I was like, ‘oh, I should just get a clown outfit and join.’”

The lighthearted nature of the protest sets it apart from much of the more serious political action that takes place in Boston.

“The risk of being involved with some sort of police activity deters me away from wanting to join protests, but I think the humor element of this kind of surpasses that barrier,” Duran said. “It is funny. It’s a cathartic way to protest.”

Organizers contacted BABAM, which offers musical support for progressive activism, to provide the music. 

“It’s different at every event, but when people need activist musicians, we show up and march,” said John Sailor, a member of BABAM, who played the bass drum and cymbal and wore his drum for the entire two-hour parade. “We’re mobile that way, it’s like parading.” 

BABAM’s primary purpose is to drown out demonstrations that it believes threaten progressivism and equality.

“We like to come out in support of causes that we believe in, or in this case protesting against people who we don’t think are holding up our values,” said Jennifer Ferguson, a musician in BABAM, who played the melodica during the march. “I find it very effective. We’re able to make a lot of noise but also have fun doing it … I think the best way to deal with people who are intolerant is just to make fun of them.” 

Participants in the Men’s March generally ignored the clowns and their music, but many found it difficult to look away, even in the midst of their solemn trek to the Common.

“[Clowns] gets the message across that we are ridiculing them without appearing aggressive,”  the supreme clown leader said. “It’s also very hard to retaliate against … what are they going to do, punch a clown? That just makes them ridiculous.” 

The Men’s March asks its participants to wear suits, or their clerical gear if they are priests, so the clown march’s humorous tone serves to contrast their image.

“I do know it gave their audio-visual guy headaches last year because all of the footage of their march is conspicuously muted. I suspect because there’s circus music in the background,” the supreme clown leader said. “I do know that, you know, it bucks people up. It lets people know that these people don’t go unopposed in this community.”

The clowns followed the Men’s March until they reached the Boston Common bandstand, where the men were slated to give speeches to a small crowd of female supporters, asked to join after the all-male march. 

“[The Men’s March is] from out of state. I think pretty much everyone here is local, either Boston or Somerville. For everyone else, it’s more about solidarity than necessarily trying to disrupt what they’re doing,” the supreme clown leader said. 

About the Contributor
Aiden Stein
Aiden Stein, staff photographer, writer
Aiden is a fourth-year Journalism major, minoring in art and media studies. He hopes to go into a career in news and media production. He is passionate about connecting with creatives and telling their stories, as well as nonprofit enterprises in Boston.
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