Counterprotesters swarm Boston after police deem free speech rally over
Scott Eisen/Getty Images(BOSTON) — One week after violent protests rattled Charlottesville, Virginia, a scheduled free speech rally in Boston Saturday afternoon was deemed “officially over” by police ahead of its official end time, but thousands of counterprotesters are continuing to descend upon the city.
In a tweet from Boston police at 1:30 p.m. ET, the rally taking place in Boston Common was deemed “officially over.”
“Demonstrators have left the Common,” Boston police added.
Libertarian congressional candidate Samson Racioppi, who was set to speak at the free speech event, told ABC affiliate WCVB-TV, “I really think it was supposed to be a good event by the organizers, but it kind of fell apart.”
An organizer of the free speech event said the group has no affiliation with the white supremacists involved in the violence in Charlottesville, but a small number of Ku Klux Klan members were expected to attend, WCVB-TV reported.
While the free speech event has concluded, counterprotesters are still swarming Boston.
Ahead of the scheduled rally, giant crowds of counterprotesters gathered in the city, holding signs that read “Hate speech is not free speech” and “White silence is violence.” An estimated 15,000 counterprotesters marched through the city, according to reports.
— Sangita Chandra (@sangichandra) August 19, 2017
Near the entrance to the rally, counterprotesters chanted, “No fascists, no KKK, no racist USA.”
— David Bienick (@BienickWCVB) August 19, 2017
Boston officials said they planned to deploy about 500 police officers to prevent violence similar to what took place in Charlottesville last weekend, where a rally by white nationalists, including neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members demonstrating over plans to remove a Robert E. Lee statue, ended in the death of a counterprotester after a car was rammed into a crowd that was marching through the streets.
“We’re going to respect their right to free speech,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday, but “they don’t have the right to create unsafe conditions.”
Walsh tweeted Saturday morning, asking the participants to remain peaceful.
I ask everyone to be peaceful today and respect our City. Love, not hate. We stand together against intolerance.
— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) August 19, 2017
Scheduled to speak at the free speech rally, which was organized by the Boston Free Speech Coalition, were Kyle Chapman, who caused controversy online after photos emerged of him hitting anti-Trump protesters; Joe Biggs, who previously worked at the website InfoWars, run by conservative radio host Alex Jones; Republican congressional candidate Shiva Ayyadurai; and Racioppi.
John Medlar, who said he is an organizer for Boston Free Speech, said the group has no affiliation with the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Boston.com reported.
“While we maintain that every individual is entitled to their freedom of speech — and defend that basic human right — we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry. We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.
The group is largely made up of students in their mid-teens to mid-20s, Medlar told Boston.com.
WCVB-TV reported that the KKK’s national director, Thomas Robb, said as many as five KKK members from Springfield and possibly more from Boston were planning to attend Saturday’s rally.
“They might be holding signs about free speech, but they’re not going to say anything about the KKK or anything,” Robb said ahead of the rally, according to WCVB-TV. “I mean, they might. I don’t know. They didn’t really say.”
Boston Police Commissioner Billy Evans said Friday that while he believes “a few troublemakers” will attend the rally, police will be “working the crowd real closely.”
Anything that can be used as a weapon, including backpacks and sticks, have been banned from the rally, WCVB-TV reported.
Demonstrators should even avoid using sticks to hold up their posters, Evans said.
The permit for the event allows the rally to take place between noon and 2 p.m., according to the Boston Globe.
Other rallies are planned across the U.S. on Saturday, many of which are in response to Charlottesville, the movement to remove Confederate statues across the country and Donald Trump’s controversial press conference on Tuesday.
Rallies are planned in Austin; Dallas; Houston; Atlanta; New Orleans; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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