Boston 'Free Speech Rally' ends early as thousands march in counter-protest

By Daniel Uria   |   Aug. 19, 2017 at 3:08 PM
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Aug. 19 (UPI) -- A planned "Free Speech Rally" in Massachusetts "fell apart" and ended prematurely Sunday afternoon, one of its scheduled speakers said.

At least 10,000 counter-protesters outnumbered attendees of the planned rally at Boston Commons as local police declared the event over at about 1:30 p.m.

Organizers for the event distanced themselves from the rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., that turned violent and was attended by white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan.

"Contrary to a lot of the rumors out there, the purpose of the rally is to denounce the kind of political violence that we have seen -- a sort of rising tide throughout the country, and particularly most recently in Charlottesville," organizer John Medlar said.

However, the Boston Herald reported earlier this week that Massachusetts members of the Ku Klux Klan planned to attend the event.

A few dozen people were seen gathered on the bandstand for the rally, but they eventually departed at about 12:45 p.m. as police took down flags and other items organizers had hung at the site.

"I didn't realize how unplanned of an event it was going to be," scheduled speaker Samson Racioppi told WCVB. "I really think it was supposed to be a good event by the organizers but it kind of fell apart."

Thousands of counter-protesters from the "Fight Supremacy" march walked from Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury to Boston Common carrying signs with messages including "Black Lives Matter" and "No Trump. No KKK. No racist USA" around the same time.

About 500 Boston police officers on bikes, on foot and undercover were at the rally, along with 200 state troopers.

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said authorities looked to avoid "a repeat of what happened in Charlottesville" at the rally last weekend, during which 32-year-old counter-protester Heather Heyer was run down by a car and killed.

"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," Evans said.

The march and the rally were largely peaceful, but physical conflicts were observed as police guided rally attendees out of the area. CNN reported that at least eight people had been arrested.

Angelina Camacho, a co-organizer of the counter-protest, said she rejected the claims made by the "Free Speech Rally" organizers to distance themselves from the violence in Charlottesville.

"If this was really about free speech, we would have been invited from day one to speak and have a platform," she said.

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