Thousands counter-protest ‘free speech’ rally in Boston

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A large crowd of people march towards the Boston Commons to protest the Boston Free Speech Rally in Boston, MA, U.S., August 19, 2017. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

A large crowd of people march towards the Boston Commons to protest the Boston Free Speech Rally in Boston, MA, U.S., August 19, 2017. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

As many as 40,000 counter-protesters overpowered a scheduled “free speech” rally by far-right groups in Boston on Saturday in a largely peaceful showing that did not lead to the violence seen one week earlier in Charlottesville, Virginia.

By 11 a.m. on Saturday, the counter-protesters — who were organized by groups including Black Lives Matter and — vastly outnumbered those who came in support of the “Boston Free Speech Rally.” Police announced the rally had ended at 1:30 p.m. on Twitter.

After the crowds had dispersed, President Donald Trump tweeted praise for the Boston police, saying they looked “tough and smart.”

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said Friday that the city would deploy 500 officers to keep the two groups apart.

Aside from small skirmishes, the rally and counter-protests were largely peaceful. By Saturday evening, police had arrested 33 protesters, mostly on charges of disorderly conduct. The rally and counter-protest ended with no serious injuries or property damage.

“99.9 percent of people here were for the right reasons, and that’s to fight bigotry and hate,” Commissioner Evans said.

The crowds marched from Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury to the Boston Common, where the rally they were protesting was scheduled to begin at noon. The group’s city permit allowed the rally to continue until 2 pm.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has vocally opposed the rally, joined counter-protesters in Roxbury.

Though the rally has been planned since July, it has drawn increased attention in the aftermath of last week’s white nationalist gathering in Virginia. On the event’s Facebook page, organizers insisted that their movement for free speech was “in no way affiliated with the Charlottesville rally.”

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