Only one week after the violent protests erupted in Charlottesville, protesters came out in the thousands to counter-protest a free speech rally that was held at the Boston Common, in Boston,MA on August 19. Counter-protesters gathered at the Reggie Lewis Center located on Tremont Street in Roxbury to parade down to the Boston Common where they were expecting to counter-demonstrate their disdain for white-supremacy.
“I was attacked by Nazi's for being gay in 1991 in Boston on Tremont, St. I didn't have any civil rights at the time and now that I have civil right's, I want to put it to use,” said Tom Sumner, a representative for Massachusetts jobs with Justice.
Many people from all over the country came out to show their support. Naomi Thompson, Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of The University of Rhode Island also attended the counter protest.
“I am happy to be here, this is history. I am happy to be apart of history,” said Thompson.
Thompson drove all the way from Rhode Island to be apart of the event. She said that she left her home at 7am just to make sure she made it on time.
"Fighting for social justice and combating white supremacy is a driving passion and fuels my life's work. The core mission of the March resonated with my Conscience," she said.
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, Attorney General Maura Healey and Pastor/Journalist Liz Walker were also amongst the counter protesters; thanking them for coming out and taking pictures with people in the crowd. Mayor Marty Walsh also walked, talked and chanted with the protesters as they walked down Tremont Street towards the Boston Common.
“Thank you everyone for coming out today and showing support,” Walsh said as he shook the protesters hands.
Although the Boston Police Department (BPD) tweeted that there were 33 arrests, according to CBS News, Police Commissioner Evans said that there was very little property damage and the protests were mostly peaceful.
The arrests that were made was for disorderly conduct and some assault charges were also filed. One person allegedly was caught with a fire arm according to the list of names and charges released by The BPD.
Some demonstrators protested by burning the Confederate Flag, while others shouted chants like, “If they attack one of us, they attack all of us,” “Black Lives Matter,” “ No justice No peace,” “Watch my back I’m under attack you got my back?” They also chanted, “When Black Lives, Queer lives, Muslim Lives, Native lives are under attack what do we do?,” the crowd yelled back “Act up Fight back!”
The Boston Common was swelling with more than 40 thousand counter protesters. However, at 1:30 the BPD announced that the rally was over after escorting a small group of free speech rally participants away from the area.
The organizer of the Free speech rally John Medler said on Facebook that he believes Mayor Martin Walsh thwarted their ability to assemble.
“Mayor Walsh recklessly whipped thousands of decent well-meaning fellow Bostonians into a frenzy by spreading lies about us. Would’ve completely proven him wrong if police hadn’t been ordered to keep press and our supporters out. I wonder where that order came from,” Medler said.
On August 16, days before the rally, Medler assured that the free speech rally was not hate driven and was being mistaken for Nazi’s.
“Let me be clear. There is NO WHITE SUPREMACY RALLY IN BOSTON! The rally I’m helping to organize is about promoting free speech as a COUNTER to political violence like the horrible things we’ve seen happen in Charlottesville. There are NO WHITE SUPREMACISTS speaking at this rally. That was a baseless internet rumor that went viral because everyone's emotions are so high right now,” he said.
Photos by Danny Hall