Just as the dust starts to settle from an intensely-violent weekend during a white nationalist rally, another controversial demonstration will be held on the East Coast.
The “Boston Free Speech Rally” is set to take place August 19, and media reports say it’s expected to bring many of the same groups that attended the “Unite the Right” rally one week prior. Event spokesperson, 23-year-old Josh Medlar of Newton, has said the rally shouldn’t be looked at in the same view as the Charlottesville, Virginia rally. Others think that it’s destined to incite violence.
During the Charlottesville rally, hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis marched to protest a proposal that would remove a Confederate statue from a local park.
The hundreds that gathered were seen August 11 marching with torches and making Nazi-like salutes. The next day, things turned increasingly more violent and deadly.
A large contingent of counter-protesters showed up, which caused violent clashes with attendees of the “Unite the Right” rally. During the afternoon, tragedy struck when a man drove his vehicle through a group of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring another 19.
Despite Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s wishes, the rally will go on August 19.
Here’s what you need to know about the rally:
1. Medlar Says Attendees ‘Categorically’ Disagree With the Hate Groups
The rally is set to take place beginning at around noon and will last until around 5 p.m. on Boston Common.
On a Facebook page for the event, organizers say it’s not in any way affiliated with the Charlottesville rally.
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.
Medlar added the event is simply aimed to advocate for free speech, nothing more.
“I would say this contrasts to Charlottesville,” he told MassLive.com. “We’re trying to get people to stop fighting and start listening,” Medlar said. “The fringes on the left and right do not respect free speech.”
Medlar said that he and other attendees will stand up “against white supremacists and radical leftist groups,” adding that those in attendance “categorically oppose groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis.
Because of recent events, police are taking extreme precaution and will be out in full force during the rally.
According to CBS Boston, police will have “eyes and ears” on anyone that’s attending the weekend rally.
“All we’re asking people to do is come out, voice your opinions, but do it peacefully,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said, adding that additional cameras will be placed in the park. “We don’t want anyone hurt. Clearly I Don’t want any of my officers hurt, who are stuck in the middle of this.”
According to TIME, Boston is deploying over 500 police officers to try and maintain control of the simultaneous rallies.
Evans sent a letter to colleges in the Boston area alerting them to the rally, adding that “our main concern is safety.
“As I have stated in the past, please act in a way that would make your school, your family, and your city proud and please respect our neighborhoods,” the letter said. “Student behavior off campus will be regarded the same as if it were on campus.”
2. The Event Features Multiple Alt-Right Speakers
The rally will have many alt-right and right-wing extremist speakers, though some of them have dropped out.
According to The Boston Globe, the event will be “headlined” by Kyle Chapman, Joe Biggs, U.S. Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai and congressional candidate Samson Racioppi.
“Of the four speakers, Chapman and Biggs appeared likely to draw the most ire,” The Globe wrote.
Chapman grew to fame after a video went viral earlier this year of him smashing a wooden post over and Antifa protester at a pro-Trump march in Berkeley, California. Afterward, he was dubbed on the internet as “Based Stickman.” He created a group called the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights, which is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as being a group an “alt-right fight club.”
Biggs is a former staff sergeant for the U.S. Army and most recently worked for InfoWars, a website Alex Jones founded. He is a known Hillary Clinton conspiracy theorist who’s actively promoted the “Pizzagate” theory.
3. The City of Boston Granted a Permit for the Rally
There had been talk that after recent incidents, the rally wouldn’t go on as planned. However, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department granted permission for the event to take place August 17.
The city approved the rally’s permit with some severe restrictions, however. Demonstrators won’t be allowed to carry backpacks, sticks or anything that could potentially be used as a weapon. In addition, police have will set up barriers to separate those attending and counter-protesters.
“We don’t want a repeat of what happened in Charlottesville,” Evans said to ABC News. “Boston is too united. We have a city that doesn’t tolerate hatred and bigotry, and we wanted to make it clear to both groups.”
4. Boston’s Mayor Has Been Reluctant to Have the Protest Go on
Walsh has been vocal about allowing the rally to go on after recent events. But with a permit in hand, the rally will go on almost as planned.
Walsh said that the city will have a “zero-tolerance” policy. He added that if it were up to him, the rally wouldn’t be taking place. However, because of the First Amendment, the rally will go on.
“Hate will not be tolerated in our city,” Walsh said to MassLive.com. “If anyone gets out of control, at all, it will be shut down.”
5. A Large Counter-Protest Has Been Planned to Take Place at the Same Time
Participants in the “Free Speech Rally” will be joined by thousands of counter-protesters.
On its Facebook event page, the counter-protest, called “Fight Supremacy! Boston Counter-Protest and Resistance Rally,” over 13,000 people say they plan on attending.
Walsh told MassLive the counter-protest should be “referred to as a peaceful rally,” and it’s expected to take place at the same time as the “Free Speech Rally.”
Read below for the event’s description:
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 Center to 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.