City and State Officials Preparing for Boston ‘Free Speech’ Rally and Counter Protests

Mayor Marty Walsh and Commissioner William Evans at press conference on Boston Free Speech Rally // Photo by Gaelen Morse

By Gaelen Morse
BU News Service

Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker condemned hate speech and explained preparations to the public at a press conference Monday afternoon regarding the Boston ‘Free Speech’ rally scheduled to occur on the Boston Common Aug.19. The event has drawn wide criticism given its parallels to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one counterprotester and two police officers dead after violence erupted.

“There is no place here for that type of hatred,” Baker said.

The group which intends to rally is doing so on the basis of defending free speech. But city officials did not release, or did not have, specific information on the organizers or plans of this group.

The mayor stated that, as of Monday afternoon, no permit had been secured by either those intending to rally or those who plan on marching in response. These permits are usually required by the city in order for groups to assemble in places such as Boston Common.

Domestic terrorism, such as the violence in Charlottesville that left Heather Heyer dead after a man drove his car into several vehicles and a crowd leaving the area, has raised concerns of what may happen if a similar rally were to occur in Boston or another city for that matter.

Boston Police Commissioner Evans made it clear that if any protest or rally does occur on the Common the Boston Police were prepared and had been speaking with community leaders and Massachusetts State Police in order to coordinate their response. Federal authorities have been notified and are working with Boston Police on the matter.

Evans said that the Boston Police will do whatever they have to do in order to keep the general public safe, whether that means protecting marchers or those who come to rally under the title of free speech.

“It’s pretty sad that were have to waste so many resources on such a group with such hatred when we should be focused on the safety or our children on the streets of our city,” Evans said.

The commissioner assured the public that the plan in place was to keep everyone safe and allow them to practice their right to public assembly.

“I have 100 percent confidence that the Boston Police and the State Police are going to make this a safe day on Saturday,” Daniel Bennet the Secretary of Public Safety said.

The President of the Boston Chapter of the NAACP, Tanisha Sullivan, gave her condolences and a heartfelt speech regarding those who stood for justice and against hatred in Charlottesville.

“We stand against hatred. We stand against racism. We stand against the terrorism,” Sullivan said.

If the rally is held on Saturday, the counterprotest march is expected to be much larger according to Commissioner Evans. But he had a strong message for anyone planning to attend as part of either group.

“We will not tolerate any acts of violence,” he said.

Mayor Walsh did confirm that a peace walk is scheduled to take place in the city on Saturday and that organizers of that event have been in contact with city officials regarding their plans. But the mayor has not had any contact with either the organizers who intend to rally or organizers of the counterprotest.

The mayor said his staff will be monitoring the situation throughout the week.


It is still unclear what will occur on Saturday, whether anyone will rally or march, but tensions are high after the domestic terrorism that occurred in Charlottesville just a few days ago.

Citizens and politicians across the country have stated their intentions to stand in solidarity with those who fight for justice and against such hated. Baker said he felt President Donald Trump’s response was inadequate.

“I think he should have come out and said what everyone was thinking and believing shortly after the incident that occurred,” said Baker. “White supremacists have no business and no place in American political dialogue. Period. End of discussion. Case closed,” Governor Baker said.

A condolence book for the victims of the terrorist attack in Charlottesville was made available inside city hall for residents to sign.  Neither the governor nor the mayor knew if they would be in attendance to march in solidarity with other Bostonians and the people of Charlottesville.

“If I can come, I will come,” Baker said, expressing his support for the cause.

Mayor Walsh and other city officials have stated they are making efforts to prevent the rally from happening, or at the very least, occur at a later date because of this past weekend’s events in Virginia.

Regardless of whether the rally or march happens. Mayor Walsh had a clear message to any families or friends thinking of enjoying their Saturday in Boston. He encouraged it. The city has dealt with rallies and protests before. City officials and law enforcement are prepared and coordinating to keep everyone safe.

“Come and see the diversity of our city,” Walsh said.


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