A planned “free speech” rally in Boston ended on Saturday without the intense violence seen at Charlottesville’s white nationalist march only a week before, The Boston Globe reports. Despite thousands of counterprotesters, a confrontation between crowds and police, and 20 arrests made mostly on charges of disorderly conduct, the event was relatively peaceful.
In the aftermath of the Charlottesville march, Boston mayor Marty Walsh insisted earlier this week that hate groups wouldn’t be welcomed at the rally. Posting on Twitter, he wrote, “Hate will not be tolerated in our City.”
Boston is an inclusive place for all. Hate will not be tolerated in our City. https://t.co/vSTWDDTHfZ
— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) August 13, 2017
Holding its rally at Boston Common, the group Boston Free Speech Coalition invited "libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists, classical liberal, Trump supporters or anyone else who enjoys their right to free speech." A statement on the group's Facebook page also clarified that it was not related to the organizations that ran the Charlottesville rally. "There is a lot of misinformation in the media slandering our name...THIS COULD NOT BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!" the message read. "We welcome all individuals and organizations from any political affiliations that are willing to peaceably engage in open dialogue about the threats to, and importance of, free speech and civil liberties."
CNN reports that the counterprotesters comprised of members of groups such as Organize Boston against Trump, Boston Democratic Socialists of America and Black Lives Matter. Although counterprotesters and supporters of President Donald Trump occasionally shouted at each other, police kept the two sides separate through a buffer zone, avoiding huge conflicts.
— Boston.com (@BostonDotCom) August 19, 2017
While the actual rally ended ahead of schedule in the early afternoon, media reported that many counterprotesters were still in Boston Common, leading to the aforementioned police confrontation. As officers escorted rally participants into vans to leave the area, other police officers had to hold back counter-demonstrators chanting, "No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!". The Globe writes that people began asking the police, "Who do you serve?," and even chased after the departing vans. Having to restrain some people by wrapping plastic zip-ties around their wrists, police eventually made arrests due to "a number of people causing small confrontations."
As for the rally itself, sources claim that not many of the scheduled participants, which included at least two people with links to extremist beliefs, actually spoke to the crowd. Samson Racioppi, a libertarian candidate for Congress, tells The Globe that the event felt disorganized and that he "kept on getting redirected around the Common."
John Medlar, one of the rally's organizers, believes that "media hysteria" caused white supremacists' interest in the free speech event. "This is our platform, our message," he said. "They use the First Amendment as shield for themselves but they won't stand up and defend the First Amendment for the people that they oppose."
Given that the country is still recovering from the result of the Charlottesville march, it's good to know that, despite differing opinions, the rally ended without any serious damage.