A ‘Free Speech rally,’ which some fear includes white supremacists, and a counter-protest are being held in Boston. Police have tightened security, even banning poles for flags and signs, to prevent a repeat of the violence seen in Charlottesville.
The rally is being staged by the Boston Free Speech Movement, which has distanced itself from far-right groups, stating that it is “dedicated to peaceful rallies” and is “in no way affiliated with the Charlottesville rally,” which turned deadly a week ago.
“We are a coalition of libertarians, progressives, conservatives, and independents and 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,” the statement on the movement’s Facebook page reads.
Counter-protesters said the Free Speech Rally accommodates “white supremacists,” before the demonstration even began, and called for it to be opposed.
“White Nationalists are converging on Boston Common to reinforce their white supremacist ideology and attempt to intimidate queer and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, POC) communities,” a statement on the counter-protest Facebook page reads.
Boston’s mayor has warned far-right groups, in case they do show up, to abstain from violence.
“Make no mistake: we do not welcome any hate groups to Boston and we reject their message,” Mayor Marty Walsh said. Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker also said that extremist violence would not be tolerated.
Around 500 police officers, both uniformed and plainclothes, have been deployed to the streets to prevent possible clashes between the groups, according to Police Commissioner William Evan. Security is tight, as marchers are prohibited from bringing placards on sticks or flags on poles, since they could be used as weapons.
The city of Boston has issued an advisory, urging citizens to abstain from visiting Boston Common during the rallies, stating that “large crowds” were expected to attend them.
“We recommend everyone stay away from the Boston Common if possible. We believe in tolerance, unity, and equality, and urge everyone to stay safe and respect our City,” the advisory reads.
The rally and counter-rally are taking place a week after the events in Charlottesville, where a ‘Unite the Right’ white supremacist rally and counter-protests resulted in violent clashes. One person was killed and nineteen injured in a car rampage, when suspect James Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. The incident triggered nation-wide protests against right-wingers, and triggered or sped up the dismantling of Confederate monuments in a number of cities.