Boston braces for far-right demonstrators and large counter-protest
By Vera Haller
A week after violent protests rocked Charlottesville, Va., Boston police are implementing a tight security plan on Saturday as a “free speech” rally with right-wing speakers is expected to converge with a large counter-protest on the city’s historic Common.
“If anything gets out of hand, we will shut it down,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said at a news conference Friday. “We’re going to respect their right to free speech. In return, they must respect our city.”
The deployment of 500 police officers, extra security cameras and barriers separating the opposing rallies are among the steps the city is taking to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville.
The city also banned participants from carrying weapons, sticks or flagpoles.
“There will be zero tolerance for any violence,” Police Chief William Evans said at Friday’s briefing with the mayor.
Walsh urged people to stay away from the Boston Common, the nation’s oldest park, where a group called “Boston Free Speech” will be holding its rally at noon Saturday.
Among those expected to speak are Kyle Chapman, a San Francisco Bay Area resident who has developed an online following using the moniker “Based Stickman.” Chapman, who carries a stick and shield during protests and wears a motorcycle helmet, was arrested after he clashed with protesters in Berkeley earlier this year.
Coinciding with the Boston rally is a counter-protest, called “Fight White Supremacy,” in which participants will march from Roxbury, a historically black neighborhood in Boston, to the Common.
Demonstrations to show solidarity with the city of Charlottesville are planned for Saturday in cities across the country, including New Orleans and Dallas. Authorities in both cities said they will deploy extra officers to maintain security.
In a statement, the Dallas Police Department said officers experienced in crowd control will be assigned to a rally billed as “Dallas Against White Supremacy.” The department also will monitor social media and be prepared for counter-protests.
“We will also activate the City’s Emergency Operations Center on Saturday to monitor the event and coordinate with other local and state agencies for resources and support,” interim Police Chief David Pughes said in a statement.
In Charlottesville, last Saturday, violent clashes broke out between far-right rally-goers and counter-protesters. The night before, marchers descended on the University of Virginia, carrying torches and angrily chanting “Blood and soil!” — a Nazi slogan — and “Jews will not replace us!”