Although Boston Mayor Marty Walsh didn’t want any part of it, a “Free Speech” rally is being held in the city August 19.
The rally, which is said to bring multiple hate groups to the city, comes just one week after a violent and deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Tensions with the “Unite the Right” rally and counterprotesters continued to mount throughout the weekend, and it came to a head August 12 when a 32-year-old woman was killed by the driver of a vehicle.
That driver, alleged to be James Alex Fields Jr., sped his car down a street crammed full of counter protesters, injuring another 19 people.
The 23-year-old event spokesperson of the “Free Speech” rally in Boston, Josh Medlar of Newton, has said the rally shouldn’t be looked at in the same view as the Charlottesville, Virginia rally. But other think that it’s destined to incite violence.
In response to plans for the rally, organizers are planning a widespread counter protest called “Fight Supremacy! Boston Counter-Protest.
“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,” the rally’s organizers wrote on Facebook.
Thousands of people are expected to attend the rally, and police will be out in full force, they said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Over 13,000 Counterprotesters Are Planning on Attending
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.”
Demonstrators are being asked to meet in front of the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury starting at 10 a.m. and a march will follow up to the “Free Speech” rally.
Read below for the event’s description:
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.
2. An Organizer Said a Black Lives Matter Group & People From as Far as Toronto Will Be in AttendanceAn Organizer Said a Black Lives Matter Group & People From as Far as Toronto Will Be in Attendance
Activist Monica Cannon told The Boston Globe members of the Black Lives Matter global network ad people from as far as Toronto will gather at the counterprotest.
“e have some activists who were on the front lines in Charlottesville coming to Boston as well, so we’re really hopeful,” she told the newspaper.
Cannon added that issues of hate and white supremacy in America need to be addressed head on.
“We can no longer sit and ignore these issues,” she said to the publication. “Ignoring a problem has never made it go away. We don’t plan to ignore it, and we plan to send a really strong message that not in the city of Boston, you don’t get to come here and do this.”
3. The ‘Free Speech Rally’ Obtained a Permit Days Ago
Much to the dismay of Walsh, Boston’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.”
The permit is for 100 people to gather, however it’s expected that closer to 1,000 could be part of the “Free Speech Rally.
4. The ‘Free Speech Rally’ Will Have Multiple Alt-Right Speakers
The “Free Speech” rally will have many alt-right and right-wing extremist speakers, though some of them 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.
5. Police Are Stepping up Security for Both Rallies
Because of recent events, police are taking extreme precaution and will be out in full force during the rally.
According to TIME, Boston is deploying over 500 police officers to try and maintain control of the simultaneous rallies.
“We will not tolerate any misbehavior, violence or vandalism whatsoever,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said at a news conference. “All we’re asking people to do is come out, voice your opinions, but do it peacefully. “We don’t want anyone hurt. Clearly I Don’t want any of my officers hurt, who are stuck in the middle of this.”
Additional surveillance cameras have been installed in the park in preparation.
Evans also 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.”