Far-right activists and leftist counter-protesters are preparing for a confrontation at a ‘Free Speech Rally’ in Boston on Saturday.
Organizers of the event have attempted to distance themselves from the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others who fomented violence in Charlottesville last week.
Dozens were hurt in brutal brawls between the opposing groups and a woman was killed when a white nationalist is accused of accelerating his car into a crowd.
The city mayor has pleaded for counter-protesters to stay away, saying their presence would draw more attention to the far-right activists and could result in violence.
However, opponents of the right-wing are expected to flock to the rally to stand against what they think could turn into a platform for racist propaganda.
Now, Boston is bracing itself for what could be a violent day with at least 500 police officers to man the streets to keep the peace between thousands of tense people.
Far-right activists and leftist counter-protesters are preparing for a confrontation at a ‘Free Speech Rally’ in Boston on Saturday. It comes a week after the violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week (pictured)
The police hope to deter violence at the ‘Free Speech’ rally, which has right-wing speakers, by closing streets to avert car attacks like the deadly one carried out last week.
After Charlottesville’s bloody street battles, Boston outlawed weapons of any kind – including sticks used to hold signs – in the protest area and ordered food vendors out of Boston Common, the nation’s oldest park.
Police Commissioner William Evans said the hundreds of officers – some in uniform, others undercover – would be deployed to keep the two groups apart.
Boston’s Democratic mayor, Marty Walsh, and Massachusetts’ Republican governor, Charlie Baker, both warned that extremist unrest wouldn’t be tolerated in this city famed as the cradle of American liberty.
Walsh has asked counter-protesters to avoid Boston Common, saying their presence would draw more attention to the far-right activists.
‘We’re urging everyone to stay away,’ Walsh said.
Monica Cannon, an organizer of the ‘Fight White Supremacy’ march, rejected that call.
‘Ignoring a problem has never solved it,’ Cannon said in a phone interview. ‘We cannot continue to ignore racism, ignore white supremacism, ignore neo-Nazis and pretend it’s not a problem.’
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (pictured) has pleaded for counter-protesters to stay away, saying their presence would draw more attention to the far-right activists
Last week, dozens were hurt in brutal brawls between opposing groups and a woman was killed and others injured when a white nationalist allegedly drove his car into a crowd (pictured)
Organizers of the ‘Free Speech’ rally denounced the violence and racist chants of the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ protest.
‘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 group said on Facebook.
The event’s scheduled speakers include Kyle Chapman, a California activist who was arrested at a Berkeley rally earlier this year that turned violent, and Joe Biggs, formerly of the right-wing conspiracy site Infowars.
Still, opponents fear that white nationalists might show up in Boston anyway, raising the specter of ugly confrontations in the first potentially large and racially charged gathering in a major U.S. city since Charlottesville.
Last weekend’s violence sparked the biggest domestic crisis yet for President Trump, who provoked ire across the political spectrum for not immediately condemning white nationalists and for praising ‘very fine people’ on both sides of the fight
The woman who was mowed down and killed at an anti-fascist rally in Virginia was identified as Heather Heyer, 32, (left and right)
Counterprotesters from Black Lives Matter and other groups denouncing racism and anti-Semitism planned to march from the city’s Roxbury neighborhood to the Common, and another group planned to rally on the steps of the Statehouse overlooking the sprawling park.
The permit issued for Saturday’s noon to 2pm event on Boston Common came with severe restrictions, including a ban on backpacks, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon.
The Boston Free Speech Coalition, which organized the event, said on Facebook that it’s not affiliated with the Charlottesville rally organizers in any way.
‘We are not associated with any alt-right or white supremacist groups,’ it said this week, insisting: ‘We are strictly about free speech.’
Walsh said the city would do whatever is necessary to head off violence initiated by either side. ‘If anyone gets out of control – at all – it will be shut down,’ he said.
‘We will not tolerate any misbehavior, violence or vandalism whatsoever,’ said Evans, Boston’s top cop.
A counter demonstrator uses a lighted spray can against a white nationalist demonstrator at the entrance to Lee Park last Saturday in Charlottesville
White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the ‘alt-right’ clash with counter-protesters at the violent rally last week
Dating to 1634, Boston Common is the nation’s oldest city park. The leafy downtown park is popular with locals and tourists and has been the scene of numerous rallies and protests for centuries.
A growing number of U.S. political leaders have called for statues honoring the Confederacy to be taken down, with civil rights activists charging that they promote racism.
Advocates of the statues contend they are a reminder of their heritage.
Last weekend’s violence sparked the biggest domestic crisis yet for U.S. President Donald Trump, who provoked ire across the political spectrum for not immediately condemning white nationalists and for praising ‘very fine people’ on both sides of the fight.
Beyond the Boston rally and counter-march, protests are also expected on Saturday in Texas, with the Houston chapter of Black Lives Matter holding a rally to remove a ‘Spirit of the Confederacy’ monument from a park and civil rights activists in Dallas planning a rally against white supremacy.