PITTSFIELD — State police warned city officials Monday that "disruptive agitators" might be planning to move into smaller communities, prompting authorities to increase the number of troopers assigned to local barracks.
Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn said in an interview Tuesday that intelligence gathered by officials at the commonwealth's Fusion Center and other agencies indicated that "some disruptive agitators that may have been present in Boston had communicated their intention to move out of the larger cities into the remote areas."
"They thought we should be aware of that, and that we should anticipate the deployment of more state resources," Wynn said.
Wynn's comment came after an email that Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer sent to members of the City Council on Monday was leaked to WAMC. In the email, Tyer said antifa — they are far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations and other events and whose name is a contraction for anti-fascists — is planning to move out of major cities and into smaller municipalities.
"Antifa plans to leave major metropolitan cities and head to smaller cities and towns. Preliminary response planning is underway in Pittsfield and Berkshire County. There is a large contingent of State Troopers currently situated at the Second Street Emergency Operations Center," she said in the email.
"At this time, there does not appear to be any Antifa interference planned for Pittsfield but we are on alert and monitoring information from a variety of sources," she continued.
Without offering specific examples, Tyer referenced "news reports about Antifa infiltrating peaceful protests" and fueling violence and destroying property.
Asked in an interview why she named antifa in the email, Tyer said: "That was the group that was identified in our emergency session with state law enforcement agencies. I do understand that there were many other types of groups that may be interfering with peaceful protests, that may be putting the protesters in harm's way, as well as the larger community."
Tyer said she is concerned about any organized group that might try to come to Pittsfield and "divide us in our common shared outrage."
"That's what I'm concerned about and I think that we have the ability to have a commitment to public safety, and support our community members who need to be heard," she said.
At-Large Councilor Earl Persip confirmed that he received Tyer's email Monday. He said Tyer was informing councilors about a potential increase in police in the city so they can inform residents who might take notice, and that "just because she's sharing information from the state doesn't mean she's promoting anything."
He said he is not concerned about antifa disrupting local protests, a hypothetical that, he said, distracts from the reason why people are protesting the police killing of black men in America.
"Young black men are dying every day in America and we are now just paying attention to that," he said.
Greater police presence
Wynn said that, on Monday, state troopers assigned to the local barracks who typically work the day shift were "held over" while officers who typically do investigations were reassigned to the uniform division.
He said in an email Tuesday that "there is a similar, but smaller contingent today."
President Donald Trump has tried to assign blame to antifa for the sometimes violent protests of police killings of black men that took place in several American cities.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Park Square in Pittsfield on Saturday, with Tyer among those in attendance, to take part in a local action organized by the Berkshire County chapter of the NAACP and spurred by the Minneapolis death of George Floyd, 46, while he was in police custody.
Near the end of a second protest at Park Square, on Sunday, the operator of an SUV reportedly pulled up to protesters and shouted about how white people get killed by police.
According to protester and witness Amillie Coster, another protester approached the driver's window and exchanged words with the male driver, who, she said, head-butted the protester in the nose and sped away.
Wynn said Tuesday that police had not yet located the two people involved in the apparent incident, but he added that investigators had spoken to a witness who was not Coster.
Amanda Burke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @amandaburkec and 413-496-6296.