Tensions are high as the Second Boston Free Speech Rally gets underway on Saturday morning, with crowd numbers being estimated at 10,000, just one week after violence took over the rally in Charlottesville, protesting the removal of a Confederate statue.
“#fightsupremacy boston” is one of the top trending hashtags on Twitter as social media users document the tens of thousands of people who have converged upon the city to show their “support” for free speech… but that term is being used differently, depending on which side of the political aisle you sit.
“This Free Speech Movement is dedicated to peaceful rallies and are in no way affiliated with the rally on 8/12/17,” announced a Facebook page linked to the Boston event, which identifies participants as 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.”
Some of the same groups organized a similar event on the Common in May, where there were two arrests.
One organizer, John Medlar, a student at Fitchburg State University, told CNN affiliate WCVB that his group is libertarian and opposes bigotry and the Ku Klux Klan.
Medlar also told reporters, “Contrary to a lot of the rumors out there, the purpose of the rally is to denounce the kind of political violence that we have seen — a sort of rising tide throughout the country, and particularly most recently in Charlottesville.”
According to the organizers, “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. We denounce the actions, activities, and tactics of the so-called Antifa movement. We denounce the normalization of political violence.”
Noticing “an unprecedented move towards sweeping censorship that undermines our democratic system,” the rally’s organizers said, “We are witnessing increasingly regular incidents of political violence being used to silence political opponents. We are witnessing our social media and online communities purging both progressive and conservative content from their networks. We oppose all instances of censorship. We believe that the way to defeat and disarm toxic ideas and ideologies is through dialogue and reason, and that attempting to silence any voice by force of mob or force of law only empowers the radical elements of society and divides us.”
According to one news report, “Roughly 30 minutes before the rally was scheduled to start, about a dozen people were gathered in Parkman Bandstand, far outnumbered by the several hundred counter-protesters surrounding them. There’s a wide perimeter around the bandstand and the counter-protesters are separated from the rally by police barricades.”
Michael Flowers, an activist from Roxbury who helped organize the Coalition to Organize and Mobilize Boston Against Trump (COMBAT) “Stand for Solidarity” counter-protest, said the group has a network of trained marshals on hand to help keep everyone safe if violence breaks out.
Flowers had a clear message for white supremacists: “You are not welcome in Boston. Our community rejects you. And our mass mobilization in Boston today reflects that.”
At mid-morning on Saturday, appropriately 100 people were gathered on the Boston Common, across the street from the State House, for the “Stand for Solidarity” counter-protest. The protesters are carrying signs and chanted “No Nazis, No KKK, no facists USA.”
Boston police have given estimates of between 10,000 to 15,000 total counter-protesters in the city.
Lynn Patton, who has worked for the Trump organization, tweeted regarding the event, “If you have to hide your identity with a mask, you are not there to be peaceful.”
— Lynne Patton (@LynnePatton) August 19, 2017
Counter protesters just surrounded a man in a red Trump hat pic.twitter.com/ae5VDa4DLP
— Meghan Barr (@meghanbarr) August 19, 2017
Anti-fascist protesters marching in Boston Common pic.twitter.com/6Gf0lmFGaE
— Meghan Barr (@meghanbarr) August 19, 2017
The Boston counter-protest is now perhaps the largest anti-racist protest this year. Thousands arrive still — many more expected. pic.twitter.com/7dIPr9XbMo
— Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) August 19, 2017
— Joey D (@Bahamajoe0) August 19, 2017
— Matt Couch (@RealMattCouch) August 19, 2017
— Mar-A-Lago ANTIFA (@MarALagoAntifa) August 19, 2017
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