The Boston Parks and Recreation Department has approved a permit for a “Free Speech” rally to take place this Saturday. From Mass Live:
Organizers of the rally are part of a group called “Boston Free Speech.” Newton native John Medlar, 23, said the event aims to advocate for free speech, and should not be compared to the “Unite the Right” rally that took place in Virginia.
“I would say this contrasts to Charlottesville. We’re trying to get people to stop fighting and start listening,” Medlar said. “The fringes on the left and right do not respect free speech.”…
A large counter-protest, which Mayor Walsh has said should be referred to as a peaceful rally, is expected to take place at the same time as the Free Speech event. Thousands of people have shown interest in the “Fight Supremacy! Boston Counter-Protest & Resistance Rally” on Facebook.
As Jazz pointed out yesterday, there has been some confusion leading up to this rally, starting with whether or not it would happen at all. As recently as Monday the organizers themselves were saying the rally was canceled because their permit had been pulled. The city responded that no one had ever applied for a permit. Now that the permit question has been resolved it seems the rally is going forward.
So is this going to be a repeat of what we saw last Saturday in Charlottesville? According to organizers, racism and bigotry are not welcome at the event:
While we maintain that every individual is entitled to their freedom of speech and defend that basic human right, we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry. We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence. We denounce the actions, activities, and tactics of the so-called Antifa movement. We denounce the normalization of political violence…
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.
“In our city, we’ve been dealing with anticipation of what’s going to happen on Saturday,” Walsh said. “I ask everyone who comes to Boston Common on Saturday, you can have your free speech all day long, but let’s not speak about hate. Let’s not speak about bigotry, racism.”
“We are a better people than what we’re seeing on TV,” Walsh said. “And I’m asking people, when you come into Boston, respect this city, because we respect your right to come in and speak. If we’re gonna respect your right to come in, we expect you to respect our city, our people, the people that live here. Don’t pass hate, don’t pass judgement on people, and that’s what we’re asking for.
Brandon Navom, one of the scheduled speakers spoke to CBS Boston yesterday saying he was “completely concerned” the rally could get out of hand. Navom says he and other organizers have been receiving death threats:
“The environment has just become so hostile and so toxic that I am completely concerned for the city of Boston,” Navom said.
He says this because he and other scheduled speakers have been receiving death threats and called “neo-Nazis” in the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
I think a lot is riding on what happens at this event. If it can take place peacefully, without being hijacked by the violent fringe on either side, it might do some good. It might show that it’s possible to have public disagreement without violence. If, on the other hand, the fringe takes over (Nazis or Antifa) and things get violent that would make matters worse.
Here’s a local news report on the rally from WBZ4: