Around 40,000 people gathered in the Boston Common Saturday afternoon to protest against the Free Speech rally organized by Boston Free Speech, said Boston Police Department Commissioner William Evans.
The Free Speech rally was supposed to feature several prominent conservative speakers, including Gavin McInnes, Canadian author and co-founder of Vice Media, and Cassandra Fairbanks, the social media star who underwent a transformation from far-left activist to ardent President Donald Trump supporter during the election. Most of the main speakers backed out the week before the rally.
Two counter-protest groups, that called their movements Stand for Solidarity and Fight Supremacy, gathered to “envision a future where Black and Brown families are no longer torn apart due to systemic white supremacy,” according to a press release sent out by the groups.
Chants including, “Where’s your rally?” and “We can’t hear you!” were directed at the Boston Free Speech group, who were far outnumbered by counter-protesters, were gathered together at the Common’s bandstand.
The counter-rallies were attended by Veterans for Peace, Black Lives Matter and Antifa, as well as people of numerous races, religions and sexual orientations. A number of Trump supporters, several wearing Make America Great Again hats, engaged with these protesters.
Evans said at a press conference following the rally that the rally goers and protesters were separated by officers patrolling a barricaded stretch of the park as a precautionary measure.
“[City officials] didn’t want what happened in Virginia to happen here, we didn’t want them at each other’s throats,” Evans said.
Protesters said they could not hear speeches given by the Boston Free Speech rally attendees due to this safety measure.
During the press conference, Evans confirmed rocks were thrown at officers during the rally. It was also suggested that urine and other harmful projectiles were aimed at policemen present, according to a tweet by BPD.
Thirty-three arrests were made for disorderly conduct, as well as assault and battery, according to BPD news. However, no one was fatally hurt, according to a BPD press release.
At the same conference following the rally, Mayor Martin Walsh thanked the BPD, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Transit Police Department, and the state police for their work on Saturday.
“Boston stood for peace and love and not bigotry and hate,” Walsh said. “I want to thank all the people that came out today, I want to thank all of the people who came out to appreciate that message of love not hate, to fight back on racism, to fight back on anti-Semitism, to fight back on white supremacy.”
Several Massachusetts attendees said they took part in the rally to unite against hate and bigotry, while others expressed their attendance was meant to show support for the Trump administration.
Mia Martelli, 21, of Marblehead, decried the organizers of Boston Free Speech rally.
“It’s called a free speech rally, but these people are just siding with white supremacists and neo-Nazis,” Martelli said.
Martelli said while there had been some commotion during the rally, it was mainly a peaceful event.
“There will be … a handful of Trump supporters or Blue Lives Matter people coming, trying to instigate some sort of confrontation,” Martelli said. “[I haven’t seen anything] physical yet. They’ve been drowned out with chants.”
Susan Reilly, 64, Assonet, said she came in support of Trump.
“I’m tired of people destroying my country,” Reilly said in tears. “I’m tired of people taking down my statutes and the history of the United States,” Reilly said. “I believe in President Trump, and I would stand up for Trump.”
Rina Cohen, 72, of Brookline, said her age did not stop her from standing up against white supremacists, racists and neo-Nazism.
“They told us not to go [to the counter-protest] because we are fragile,” Cohen said. “But I’m not fragile. I’m a stubborn, opinionated [woman].”