BOSTON — A self-described “free speech” rally on Saturday in downtown Boston was dwarfed by thousands of counterprotesters opposed to the organizers’ right-wing views.
Organizers of the “Boston Free Speech Coalition Rally” expected about 100 people to attend, according to a permit they obtained for the event. A Facebook page for the rally suggested more than 300 people would show up. However, aerial photos and videos show a much smaller number of demonstrators huddled in a gazebo on Boston Common, flanked by counterprotesters on all sides.
A coalition of mostly left-leaning groups and activists, including the Black Lives Matter movement, organized the counterprotest.
The actions came one week after white nationalists and other right-wing groups clashed with counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park. One woman was killed and many others injured after a white nationalist allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.
Organizers of Saturday’s rally described themselves as a coalition of “libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists, classical liberals, (Donald) Trump supporters or anyone else who enjoys their right to free speech.” They also sought to distance themselves from the violence in Charlottesville.
“We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence,” said a statement on the rally’s Facebook page.
The Anti-Defamation League said the Boston rally, as planned, was not a white supremacist event, but its organizers are “in step with the alt right in their hatred of feminists and immigrants, among others.”
Counterprotesters on Saturday made clear to the organizers that their views were not welcome in Boston.
“The extreme difference of the size of the two groups is a statement in itself,” Christopher Marino, who shot a video overlooking Boston Common, told CNN.
In another video, counterprotesters can be heard chanting “shame.”
Rally organizers shared a photo showing the “people who made it through security” assembled in the park gazebo. Videos shared earlier in the day on social media showed counterdemonstrators jeering at rally goers as they made their way to the event.
There were no major incidents reported Saturday in Boston, but police said 33 were arrested — mostly for disorderly conduct and assaults on police officers.
Commenting on the day’s competing rallies, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said, “It’s clear today that Boston stood for peace and love, not bigotry and hate.”