After Charlottesville, Boston aims to
avert violence at 'Free Speech' rally
Send a link to a friend
[August 19, 2017]
By Scott Malone and Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) - Hundreds of police
officers will hit the streets of Boston on Saturday to deter violence at
a "Free Speech" rally with right-wing speakers a week after a woman was
killed at a Virginia white-supremacist protest.
At least 500 police officers, many on bicycles, aim to keep the expected
crowd of a few hundred people at the "Free Speech" rally separate from
thousands attending a counter-protest by people who believe the event
could become a platform for racist propaganda.
Authorities will close streets to avert car attacks like the deadly one
carried out in Charlottesville, Virginia, by a man said to have neo-Nazi
sympathies against counter-protesters and a similar spate of attacks by
Islamist extremists in Europe, most recently Barcelona.
After Charlottesville's bloody street battles, Boston outlawed weapons
of any kind - including sticks used to hold signs - in the protest area
and ordered food vendors out of Boston Common, the nation's oldest park.
The violent clashes in Charlottesville, in which one woman was killed in
the car rampage, ratcheted up racial tensions already inflamed by white
supremacist groups marching more openly in rallies across the United
White nationalists had converged in the Southern university city to
defend a statue of Robert E. Lee, who led the army of the pro-slavery
Confederacy during the Civil War, which ended in 1865.
A growing number of U.S. political leaders have called for statues
honoring the Confederacy to be taken down, with civil rights activists
charging that they promote racism. Advocates of the statues contend they
are a reminder of their heritage.
Last weekend's violence sparked the biggest domestic crisis yet for U.S.
President Donald Trump, who provoked ire across the political spectrum
for not immediately condemning white nationalists and for praising "very
fine people" on both sides of the fight.
Beyond the Boston rally and counter-march, protests are also expected on
Saturday in Texas, with the Houston chapter of Black Lives Matter
holding a rally to remove a "Spirit of the Confederacy" monument from a
park and civil rights activists in Dallas planning a rally against white
[to top of second column]
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh urges U.S. President Donald Trump not to
withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord during a news conference at
City Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Brian
COUNTER-PROTESTERS REJECT PLEA
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Friday asked counter-protesters to avoid
Boston Common, saying their presence would draw more attention to
the far-right activists.
"We're urging everyone to stay away," Walsh said.
Monica Cannon, an organizer of the "Fight White Supremacy" march,
rejected that call.
"Ignoring a problem has never solved it," Cannon said in a phone
interview. "We cannot continue to ignore racism, ignore white
supremacism, ignore neo-Nazis and pretend it's not a problem."
Organizers of the "Free Speech" rally denounced the violence and
racist chants of the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" protest.
"We are a coalition of libertarians, progressives, conservatives,
and independents and we welcome all individuals and organizations
from any political affiliations that are willing to peaceably engage
in open dialogue about the threats to, and importance of, free
speech and civil liberties," the group said on Facebook.
The event's scheduled speakers include Kyle Chapman, a California
activist who was arrested at a Berkeley rally earlier this year that
turned violent, and Joe Biggs, formerly of the right-wing conspiracy
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Mary Milliken)
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.