Boston turned up in a big way against white supremacy on Saturday when a so-called “alt-lite” group, theoretically separate group from the recently known “alt-right,” organized a free speech rally on Boston Common.
Just a week after neo-Nazis flooded the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, leaving three dead, Boston and its police force had feared the event would attract a newly emboldened white supremacist crowd.
But the free speech rally fell apart soon after it began.
Only about 50 people showed up, and found themselves up against as many as 40,000 counter-protesters, comprised of Black Lives Matter activists, far-left anti-fascist organizers, and pissed off Bostonians, just to name a few.
Meanwhile, a concurrent protest against white supremacy gathered steam on the other side of town made its way toward Boston Common.
Earlier in the week, the national director of the Ku Klux Klan said its members from Massachusetts would should up at the rally. But the event’s organizers had said they opposed white supremacy.
And speakers, including prominent “proud boy” social media personalities, like Gavin McInnes and August Invictus, had also started to pull out of the event.
The rally began at noon when about 50 rally attendees gathered at Boston Common, the country’s oldest city park.
But soon after, out of concern for their safety, police had to barricade the attendees, including former Infowars contributor and pizzagate conspirateur Joe Biggs, in the park’s bandstand.
Officers ultimately had to escort them away from the park in police vans again, for their safety sparking clashes between police and counter-protesters, who didn’t understand why law enforcement was protecting who they called “white supremacists.”
At least 27 people were arrested throughout the day, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said.
Earlier in the morning, counter-protesters had gathered in Roxbury, a historically black neighborhood of Boston, to make signs, rally, and then march the two miles toward Boston Common.
Trese Ainsworth, 46, and her daughter, Lauren Ainsworth, 25, who was wearing a pink pussy hat, held signs that read,
“Freedom of speech does not mean hate speech.”
“I’m a white suburban mom, and people like me have to come and stand-up and say, ‘This is not OK,’”
Winston Bodrick, left, and his brother , Rev. Willie Bodrick II, 29.
“We will not go backwards,”
the Reverend said.
My family was descended from slaves, and we will not perpetuate that.
This country should be better, and we need to be a collective and moral truth against systemic white supremacy.
Similarly, Chuck Lacey, 61, a farmer, drove with his family down from Vermont to march.
“I’m just mad,”
“I was motivated to come out because it’s times to take responsibility and respond to what happened last weekend,”
“I told my black friends they shouldn’t come. This is our responsibility.”
As the morning rolled on, the crowds of counter-protesters began to swell; a van pulled up, playing
“Give more Power to the People,”
by the Chi-Lites.
Black-clad antifa, many of whom wore signs that read
“smash white supremacy,”
and Black Lives Matter organizers energized the streets, chanting,
“Hey, hey, ho ho, white supremacy has got to go,”
while a brass band played to the rhythm.
Speakers, including Roxbury Councilman Tito Jackson and Monica Cannon, a local racial justice activist, addressed the crowd from the van’s platform.
They talked about systemic issues, like gentrification, schooling, and income inequality.
Even though police had sequestered the free speech rally attendees from the crowd, a stray Trump supporter would venture away and be mobbed by counter-protesters and media. Every time, a tall man in a cream suit and a straw hat would break-up the fights and say, “no violence,” over and over again.
“I see a sea of ignorance,”
remarked Darrel O’Connell, 57, a laundry worker from Rhode Island there to support free speech with his son Eamon O’Connell, 30, who’s in the military.
Darrel rejects the “white supremacist” or “neo-Nazi” label.
“They are unfair and intimidates anyone who disagrees with Black Lives Matter or communists,”
“I’m not a white supremacist. I’m an American.”y
Darrel added that he believed what happened in Charlottesville last weekend was a “setup” designed by city officials but didn’t offer any evidence.
At about 1.30 p.m., half an hour earlier than planned, the free speech rally disbanded, reportedly because some of the organizers hadn’t even showed up.
As the rally attendees left, the people in Boston Common cheered, chanted “Black Lives Matter,” and danced.
“It’s clear today that Boston stood for peace and love, not bigotry and hate,”
said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh later in a press conference.