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Here’s what happened at the ‘free speech’ rally and counter-protests on Boston Common

Counter-protesters stand at the edge of their barricade as the "free speech" rally takes place at Parkman Bandstand. Craig F. Walker / The Boston Globe

Update 7:15 p.m.:

John Medlar, who says he is an organizer for Boston Free Speech, thanked and updated supporters in a series of Facebook posts, where he blamed Mayor Marty Walsh for the “free speech” rally’s low turnout.

Medlar also thanked the Boston Police, who “literally saved our lives today,” he wrote.

Update 5:46 p.m.:

Here’s a look at a handful of photos from Boston Globe photographers who were near the Boston Common.

A counter-protester blocks the path of a Boston police motorcycle officer on Tremont Street as police tried to evacuate a “free speech” demonstrator.


A counter-protester confronts a “free speech” demonstrator being escorted through Downtown Crossing.

A woman is taken into custody during a confrontation on Washington Street.

Police arrest a man on Washington Street after the “free speech” rally and counter protests.

A crowd taunts police during a confrontation on Washington Street.

Update 5:30 p.m.:

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Police Commissioner William Evans seemed pleased with the day’s events and police response, as indicated by their remarks during a press conference shortly after 4:30 p.m.

Walsh thanked the people who came out to share the message of “love not hate,” as well as the emergency personnel who worked the scene.

“I think it’s clear today that Boston stood for peace and love, not bigotry and hate,” Walsh said.

As of the press conference, police had made 27 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct but also “a couple” for assault and battery on police officers and other charges, according to Evans. He said some officers were hit with bottles of urine, and police tweeted that rocks were being thrown at officers. No serious injuries or significant property damage occurred, Evans added.


Evans didn’t attribute the bad behavior to rally-goers or counter-protesters, but rather a third group.

“Obviously I wish the troublemakers stayed away,” he said. “ … They weren’t here for either side. They were here just to cause problems.”

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

Three people “with ballistic vests” were stopped by officers, and later police found a gun with one of the vests, according to Evans.

“There were people, I think, who came here to cause some harm,” he said, “but we were lucky to get those three out of here.”

Evans became the most animated after a reporter said organizers alleged speakers were unable to get to the “free speech” rally.

“We had a job to do; we did a great job,” he said. “I’m not going to listen to people who come in here and want to talk about hate. And you know what, if they didn’t get in, that’s a good thing ’cause their message isn’t what we want to hear.”

Overall, Evans called it a “great day for the city.”

“I’m really impressed,” he said. “We probably had 40,000 people out here, standing tall against hatred and bigotry in our city, and that’s a good feeling.”



Update 4:43 p.m.:

President Donald Trump has again tweeted about the Boston demonstrations, as well as protests more generally.


Update 4:38 p.m.:

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Police Commissioner William Evans are holding a press conference on the day’s events. (Video below may take a moment to load.)

Boston Mayor, Police Update On Protests

Watch Live: Mayor Marty Walsh, Boston Police Update On Protests

Posted by WBZ | CBS Boston on Saturday, August 19, 2017


Update 4:19 p.m.:

Sen. Ed Markey has weighed in on Twitter, saying he “couldn’t be more proud of #Boston today.”


Update 4:14 p.m.:

According to an MBTA tweet, Boylston and Park Street stations are expected to reopen at about 5 p.m. The stations closed at noon for “public safety reasons.”


Update 4:09 p.m.:

Boston.com’s Meghan Barr tweeted another video of the earlier confrontation. In it, a crowd yells “Run, Nazi, run,” apparently at the young man in the center of the frame. (Video contains explicit language.)


Update 3:58 p.m.:

A “sit-in protest” on Tremont Street, near West Street, has resulted in some closures, according to the city.


Update 3:48 p.m.:

In a tweet, Boston police said rocks are being thrown at officers.

Roughly 15 minutes before, police tweeted and asked “individuals to refrain from throwing urine, bottles and other harmful projectiles” at officers.


Update 3:39 p.m.:

President Donald Trump has tweeted about the Boston demonstrations.


Update 3:22 p.m.:

Earlier in the day, Sean Cronin, a supporter of President Donald Trump, said counter-protesters shouted and sprayed silly string at him while he was trying to find the entrance to the “free speech” rally on the Boston Common.

“It just turned into a mob pit,” said Cronin, who was wearing a Trump hat and a T-shirt that read “My favorite color is freedom.”


Cronin, who described his political leanings as “center to right,” said “a few nice people” helped him get out of the crowd. He said he supports Trump because of his stance on illegal immigrants and jobs.

After speaking with reporters, Cronin was again confronted by counter-protesters, who shouted “Nazi” at him as he left the park.


Update 3:06 p.m.:

Boston Globe reporter Jan Ransom has tweeted a couple more videos of tense scenes. It wasn’t immediately clear if the two videos are connected or separate incidents. The second video appears to be of the scene Globe reporter Akilah Johnson captured below.


Update 3:02 p.m.:

Streets around the Boston Common are now open, Boston police said on Twitter.


Update 2:54 p.m.:

The Boston Globe, citing “a law enforcement official briefed on the situation,” is reporting that 20 arrests were made.

According to a law enforcement official briefed on the situation, 20 arrests were made on disorderly conduct and other charges. The official attributed the arrests to “a number of people causing small confrontations.”


Update 2:45 p.m.:

Reporters on the Boston Common have tweeted videos and reports of a few tense scenes.


Update 2:35 p.m.:

Here are a couple videos from the day’s events. In the first, counter-protesters march on Tremont Street. In the second, police use vehicles to escort people involved in the “free speech” rally from the Boston Common, while counter-protesters chant “Make them walk.” (Videos below may take a moment to load.)

Watch as counter protesters make their way toward the “free speech” rally on Boston Common.

Posted by Boston.com on Saturday, August 19, 2017

Boston Police escort some of the “free speech” supporters out of the Common while counter-protesters on Boylston Street chant “Make them walk!”

Posted by Boston.com on Saturday, August 19, 2017


Update 2:05 p.m.:

U.S. Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai tweeted a photo of himself speaking at the “free speech” rally in front of “Black Lives Do Matter” signs. The Cambridge Republican suggested in the tweet that characterizations of the rally as a “white supremacist” gathering were false.



Update 1:52 p.m.:

Police wearing helmets and holding clubs set up near the Boston Common.

Boston Globe reporter Steve Annear tweeted photos of a scuffle.


Update 1:40 p.m.:

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sent out the following tweet after the “free speech” rally ended.

Update: Walsh soon deleted the tweet, it read: “Once again, Boston has proved hate has no place in our City.”


Update 1:32 p.m.:

The “free speech” rally is “officially over,” according to a Boston police tweet.


Update 1:21 p.m.:

Multiple Boston Globe photographers, as well as Michael Dwyer from the Associated Press, have been capturing scenes from the day’s events. Here’s a handful of their shots:

Thousands of counter-protesters march down Tremont Street.

A counter-protester, left, confronts a professed supporter of President Donald Trump on the Boston Common.

Counter-protesters chant on the Boston Common.

State and local police stand in front of a parade of counter-protesters arriving at the Boston Common.

Counter-protesters march down Tremont Street.


Update 1:10 p.m.:

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was at the start of the march from Roxbury to the Boston Common. He then went to West Broadway Unity Day in South Boston.


Update 12:56 p.m.:

According to multiple reports from reporters on the Boston Common, the people involved in the “free speech” rally have left the Parkman Bandstand with a police escort. The group’s city permit allowed the rally to go until 2 p.m.



Update 12:22 p.m.:

Anti-facist protesters marched while chanting on the Boston Common.


Update 12:08 p.m.:

A man in a red “Make America Great Again” hat was surrounded by counter-protesters on the Boston Common. He appeared to be trying to get to the “free speech” rally. When the crowd engulfed him, he stood motionless with his hands behind his back. The crowd dispersed after a few minutes.


Update 11:56 a.m.:

Celtics great Cedric Maxwell, who is now part of the team’s radio coverage, was spotted on the Boston Common by Associated Press photographer Michael Dwyer. Maxwell said he plans to participate in the counter-protest, according to Dwyer’s caption.


Update 11:36 a.m.:

Roughly 30 minutes before the “free speech” rally was scheduled to start about a dozen people were gathered in Parkman Bandstand, far outnumbered by the several hundred counter-protesters surrounding them. There’s a wide perimeter around the bandstand and the counter-protesters are separated from the rally by police barricades.


Update 11:28 a.m.:

The Boston Globe has a Facebook Live going of the “Fight Supremacy!” march from Roxbury to the Boston Common. (Video below may take a moment to load.)

Watch: Counterprotesters marched from the Reggie Lewis center towards the “Free Speech” rally on Boston Common. http://bit.ly/2wbZUO9

Posted by The Boston Globe on Saturday, August 19, 2017


Update 11:10 a.m.:

The crowd of counter-protesters in front of the State House has swelled to several hundred.

Michael Flowers, an activist from Roxbury who helped organize the Coalition to Organize and Mobilize Boston Against Trump (COMBAT) “Stand for Solidarity” counter-protest, said the group has a network of trained marshals on hand to help keep everyone safe if violence breaks out. Organizers of the “free speech” rally have said they’re committed to holding a peaceful gathering.


Flowers had a clear message for white supremacists: “You are not welcome in Boston. Our community rejects you. And our mass mobilization in Boston today reflects that.”


Update 10:48 a.m.:

About 100 people have gathered on the Boston Common, across the street from the State House, for the “Stand for Solidarity” counter-protest.

The protesters are carrying signs and chanted “No Nazis, No KKK, no facists USA.”

Rob Worstell, a 49-year-old Beverly resident who spent time in the Navy, said he saw white supremacy firsthand while he was growing up in Idaho.

“I feel like we need to stand up to this kind of attitude, arrogance, and people,” he said.

Sanitation trucks and concrete barriers are set up near Park Street Station, blocking vehicle access to the Common in the area, which has no fencing.


Update 10:30 a.m.:

Boston Globe photographer Jonathan Wiggs is at the Boston Common and has filed a few photos of the scene there Saturday morning.

John Waters, with his sign on the Boston Common.


Update 10:16 a.m.:

A couple photos have come in from the “Fight Supremacy!” counter-protest and rally. Protesters are starting in Roxbury, near the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, and will march to the Boston Common.

Members of the Boston Area Brigade of Activist Musicians.


Update 10:04 a.m.:

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans thanked those who have shared “prayers & support” for his officers, in a department tweet Saturday morning.


The department also tweeted about Friday night’s interfaith service at Temple Israel of Boston.


Update 9:40 a.m.:

The MBTA is closing Boylston and Park Street stations at about noon Saturday for “public safety reasons,” according to a tweet. 

You can follow MBTA service alerts here or on Twitter.


Update 9:28 a.m.:

At least a couple of local eateries are having promotions related to the counter-protests Saturday.

Mei Mei Street Kitchen is donating proceeds from every Double Awesome sold Saturday to the Southern Poverty Law Center, its owners said in a Facebook post Friday.

Some people are saying that restaurants should stay out of politics. But we’re one of few minority-woman owned…

Posted by Mei Mei Restaurant on Friday, August 18, 2017

And Blackbird Doughnuts is donating all of its Saturday sales to the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to an Instagram post. Blackbird also will be giving away sheet cake, a reference to Tina Fey’s Weekend Update appearance.


A controversial “free speech” rally is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. at the Boston Common’s Parkman Bandstand. Boston Free Speech, the group organizing the rally, posted a list of rally speakers Friday.

The list includes Joe Biggs, who worked until recently for Infowars, the website founded by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones; and Kyle Chapman, known on the internet as “Based Stickman” and founder of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, which is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “new Alt-Right group of street fighters.” U.S. Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai is also scheduled to speak.

Organizers say they’re committed to holding a peaceful rally.

“If we are made aware, at any time, that hate groups are attending our rally we will ask them to exercise their free speech elsewhere,” the group said on Facebook Friday after a Boston Herald report that KKK members were planning to attend.


Thousands of people have RSVP’d online to two counter-protests: A “Fight Supremacy!” counter-protest and rally, which is set to start at 10 a.m. with a march from Roxbury to the Common, and a “Stand for Solidarity” counter-protest, starting at 11 a.m. in front of the State House. The two counter-protests are expected to join on the Common.

Officials, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Police Commissioner William Evans, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, have stressed throughout the week that there is no place for violence and hate in Boston.

“Boston and Massachusetts are the home of some of the most important moments in the fight for freedom and equality in this nation’s history. Tomorrow is one more chapter in that honored tradition,” Baker said at a press conference Friday. “And we’re going to do everything we can to ensure that tomorrow is about liberty and justice and about freedom and peace, and yes, the right for people to peacefully gather and assemble.”

A large police presence is expected on the Common.

Here’s where you can find more info on the rally and counter protests: