Tens of thousands of left-wing activists converged on Boston Saturday to protest “white supremacism” during a “free speech” rally in which organizers disavowed white supremacism. The counter-protesters were under the impression that the free speech rally would be similar to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week that became violent and left a woman dead. But they were wrong. The rally was organized by a free speech group with no connection to white nationalists or Nazis. The protest on Saturday seemed to be either a result of mass hysteria fanned by a rabidly anti-Trump MSM, or a massive astroturf effort funded by the usual suspects on the organized left. Or a combination of the two.
An organizer for Boston Free Speech, the group behind the rally, told Boston.com that the group is not associated with the white supremacists and wrote in a Facebook post prior to the event that hate groups were not welcome.
John Medlar said his group is mostly comprised of Boston-area students in their mid-teens to mid-20s.
While Medlar defined Boston Free Speech as “intentionally neutral libertarians,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a blog post Monday that the rally “has been organized under the auspices of the alt lite,” also known as the New Right, a “loosely-connected movement whose adherents generally shun white supremacist thinking, but who are in step with the alt right in their hatred of feminists and [illegal] immigrants, among others.”
Medlar disagreed with this characterization of the rally’s organizers and said he wished the league had reached out to his group directly instead of rushing to judgment.
“We are a grassroots coalition of local progressives, libertarians, and conservatives,” he wrote in an email to Boston.com. “… The topic of our event is free speech itself, and issues related to free speech. [Every] speaker at this event was invited to speak about issues related to free speech, not their other personal politics.”
Medlar, a 23-year-old Newton native, said Boston Free Speech is not associated with any of the groups from the Charlottesville rally, echoing statements put out by the group on Facebook Tuesday, Saturday, and June 17.
Medlar told Boston.com that most of the groups that are involved with his organization are currently “right wing” because they are the ones who “feel their free speech is mostly under threat.” In response to a report in the Boston Herald Friday alleging that members of the Massachusetts Ku Klux Klan were planning to attend the free speech rally, he said on Facebook that his group “reserves the right to dismiss anyone” at their event.
“If we are made aware, at any time, that hate groups are attending our rally we will ask them to exercise their free speech elsewhere,” the post said.
Ironically, one of the speakers at the free speech rally was Indian-born American scientist and entrepreneur V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai, who is a Republican candidate in the 2018 United States Senate election in Massachusetts. Ayyadurai’s supporters held up signs that said “Black Lives DO Matter.”
Boston Free Speech Rally: What The News did NOT Cover. https://t.co/D7Rt8j3wMd
— Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, MIT PhD. Inventor of Email (@va_shiva) August 19, 2017
Other free speech advocates scheduled to speak at the rally included Joe Biggs, who used to work for Infowars, and Kyle Chapman, “known on the internet as ‘Based Stickman’ and founder of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights.”
Rather than actual Nazis and white nationalists, rally participants consisted of conservatives, libertarians, and “alt-lite” types who disavowed hate speech and racism.
Regardless, counter-protest “organizers” announced a “Fight Supremacy! Boston Counter-Protest” on Facebook to condemn the “white nationalists” at the free speech rally.
On Saturday, August 19th, White Nationalists are converging on Boston Common to reinforce their white supremacist ideology and attempt to intimidate queer and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, POC) communities.
As we have seen with the events in Charlottesville and around the country, white nationalists are emboldened by the current political administration and growing police state. Rallies and marches organized by white supremacists are more prevalent than in recent years, and—as always—it is the most marginalized who are left vulnerable.
Walk with us as we march from the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Centerto Boston Common (1.9 miles) and Rally for Black Lives, LGBTQI Lives, Indigenous Lives, Palestinian Lives, Cape Verde Lives, Latinx Lives, Jewish Lives, and all who are marginalized! We will meet in front of the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center at 10am before marching to Boston Commons to demand justice and stand in defiance of white supremacy.
A left-wing group called United for Justice with Peace (UJP) announced “a rally to Unite Against Hate and Oppression” in a post on its website on August 15. A plethora of far-left groups — including Answer Coalition, Boston Democratic Socialists of America, PSL Boston – Party for Socialism and Liberation, Boston May Day Coalition, Boston Socialist Party, and Our Revolution Cambridge — endorsed the counter-protest.
On August 19th, several white supremacists, nationalists and neo-fascist groups will be assembling in the Boston Commons as part of recent national campaign for “free speech”. We must show up in solidarity against hate and show that Boston is not a place that tolerates hate.
State House, Boston
12 noon to 4 PM
Why do we need solidarity? Because we must remain united in struggle and bring the left together to fight against hate and the rise of white nationalism.
Please message the event hosts if your group or organization would like to endorse this action.
Coalition to Organize and Mobilize Boston Against Trump
Answer Coalition Boston
Boston Democratic Socialists of America
We Unite Organization, Inc.
PSL Boston – Party for Socialism and Liberation
Youth Action March
ACT UP Boston
Boston May Day Coalition
Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice
Our Revolution Cambridge
PHENOM (Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts)
Boston Socialist Party
Although 33 protesters were arrested, officials praised what they called a “mostly peaceful event,” according to WCVB5.
Of the estimated 40,000 attendees, Boston Police said 33 were arrested for charges including assault and battery on police officers. Three people were found wearing ballistic vests, and one of those was armed, Police Commissioner William Evans said.
Evans said “99.9 percent of the people here were here for the right reason, and that is to fight bigotry and hate.”
Several verbal confrontations were heard between counterprotesters and rally attendees as they tried to reach the bandstand. Some of the counterprotesters, who said it was their duty to support free speech, were seen helping the rally attendees through the dense crowd.
Eventually, however, the “Free Speech Rally” organizers decided to give up.
“I didn’t realize how unplanned of an event it was going to be,” said Samson Racioppi, a candidate for Congress who was on the list of speakers publicized by the rally organizers. “I really think it was supposed to be a good event by the organizers but it kinda fell apart.”
A few dozen people had gathered on the bandstand for the controversial rally, but reporters observed them departing around 12:45 p.m. A few minutes later, police were seen taking down the flags and other items that the rally organizers had hung on the bandstand.
Police needed to escort rally attendees out of the area through the “99.9 percent” peaceful crowd, according to WCVB5, “but some physical conflicts were observed and a phalanx of officers in riot gear emerged near Emerson College as a show of force to quell the crowd.” That .1 percent of the crowd that was non-peaceful must have been really intimidating.
At the same time, the “Fight Supremacy” march began to reach the area with 10,000 or more participants who were led into downtown from Roxbury, by organizers including Black Lives Matter and the Mass Community Action Network.
Boston-area leaders of Black Lives Matter said Friday that they did not accept claims from the organizers of the “Free Speech Rally.”
“For many years, they have ignored the problem and ignoring the problem is not going to make it go away,” said Boston-area Black Lives Matter co-organizer Monica Cannon.
“If this was really about free speech, we would have been invited from day one to speak and have a platform,” said Boston-area Black Lives Matter co-organizer Angelina Camacho.
Here are some sights and sounds from the “mostly peaceful” counter-protest of a non-existent white nationalist rally.
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) August 19, 2017
"Counter-protester" calls for "hands off DPRK". These agitators are more pro-North Korea than they are America. h/t @TheNewsAttire pic.twitter.com/KF2PaTIyXM
— Nick Short 🇺🇸 (@PoliticalShort) August 19, 2017
— Nick Short 🇺🇸 (@PoliticalShort) August 19, 2017
Those weren’t “bottles of water” that were being thrown at the police, by the way. The Boston Police commissioner said he was “sorry to report” that his officers were hit with bottles of urine as well as a lot of other stuff.
When the president made note of these totally predictable left-wing activities on Twitter, the left — including members of the MSM — screamed in protest.
Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017
— Chet Cannon (@Chet_Cannon) August 19, 2017
Thousands come out to peacefully protest white supremacists, while cheering on the cops, and he says this. He is a terrible human being. https://t.co/Gi6GRtLU92
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) August 19, 2017
sure bud pic.twitter.com/XrzGsBHKhd
— Ben McDonald (@Bmac0507) August 19, 2017
Finally, here’s a report from an attendee of the free speech rally who described the “99.9 percent” peaceful counter-protest as “so so bad.”