The controversial Boston Free Speech Rally has reportedly ended early. According to reports, police escorted the small crowd of "free speech" protesters who'd gathered at the Parkman Bandstand in Boston Common for Saturday's Boston Free Speech Rally out of the park shortly after 12:30 p.m. local time, drawing cheers from nearby counter-protesters. The "free speech" rally was reportedly scheduled to go until 2:20 p.m. It was not immediately clear if organizers had called an early end to the event or if police had simply decided to break things up ahead of schedule.
"'Free Speech' rally is officially over," the Boston Police Department announced via Twitter at roughly 1:30 p.m. local time. "Demonstrators have left the Common."
Boston Globe reporter Emily Mesa-Zendt reported police escorted participants of the "free speech" rally out of Boston Common and removed all flags and banners from the bandstand. Counter-protesters gathered nearby reportedly chanted, "cowards" and "make them walk" as police led rally-goers out of Boston Common, the Globe's Beth Healy reported.
Although police have not revealed any additional information as to why the event ended, one scheduled speaker told WCVB the event appeared to fall apart due to a lack of planning. "I didn't realize how unplanned of an event it was going to be," Samson Racioppi, a congressional candidate allegedly scheduled to speak the the Boston Free Speech Rally, told WCVB. "I really think it was supposed to be a good event by the organizers but it kinda fell apart."
As police escorted "free speech" rally-goers from the bandstand to police vehicles waiting to take them from the area, counter-protesters booed and chanted, according to reports from Boston Globe reporters Steve Annear and Patricia Wen. Counter-protests have remained in the area following the early break up of the Boston Free Speech Rally, taking on a celebratory – and largely peaceful – atmosphere.
Earlier in the day, counter-protesters had converged on Boston, significantly overshadowing the "free speech" event they'd come to oppose. While various media outlets estimated participants at the Boston Free Speech Rally numbered no more than 50, counter-protesters appeared to number well into the thousands. Although organizers behind the Boston Free Speech Rally disavowed any connection to a fatally violent white nationalist rally held last week in Virginia, many counter-protesters feared white supremacists would use the event to promote a rhetoric of hate and bigotry.