In the wake of violent clashes last Saturday at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the city of Boston is gearing up for its own controversial rally. If you're wondering what's happening at the Boston Common and why thousands of people are expected to swarm the downtown public park on Saturday, here's what you need to know about the Free Speech rally that has put the city on edge.
Boston Free Speech, the organizers of the rally, claim they have no affiliation with the organizers of the Charlottesville rally, and state that: "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."
Counter-protesters are expected to attend the rally as well, with over 10,000 people signing up on Facebook for a "Stand For Solidarity" rally held at the same time. So far, it looks like there are far more people showing to counter-protest than showing up to the rally itself. A Boston Globe reporter estimated at least 1,500 people protesting, which already dwarfs the 307 registered as going to the Boston Free Speech Rally on its Facebook page.
The counter-protesters seem to overlap with other recent protests on the left, such as Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and numerous events protesting the Trump administration in the past year.
Antifa, short for anti-fascist, the masked leftist protest group that expresses a willingness to use violence to block the rise of the hard-right and white supremacy, has also showed up at the rally, though no violence has been reported yet.
The Boston police have deployed in large numbers to keep the peace at the rally. They've erected barriers and put up security cameras, with the intention of separating the rally-goers from counter-protesters. Uniformed officers can be seen throughout the park keeping the two groups apart.
The counter-protestors have organized into a massive march of hundreds, walking with signs from the Reggie Lewis Center down Tremont Street to the Common.
As the rally begins, the counter-protestors are making efforts to overwhelm the speakers at the rally, using their force of numbers (but so far, no actual force, especially with the cops keeping the groups apart) in order to drown out the relatively few rally-goers and speakers in the Common. The numbers of the counter-protestors far outweigh the actual attendees of the Free Speech Rally.
More to come...