Boston 'Free Speech Rally' Surrounded by 40K Protesters

Trump tweets, 'We will heal'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2017 1:08 PM CDT
Updated Aug 19, 2017 5:00 PM CDT
Boston 'Free Speech Rally' Surrounded by 15K Protesters
Police stand at a barricade around the bandstand before a planned "Free Speech" rally by conservative activists on Boston Common, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Boston.   (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

A "Free Speech Rally" Saturday in Boston ended shortly after starting when dozens of right-wing rally attendees were met by 40,000 counter-protesters, WCVB reports. The rally was organized by conservative and libertarian activists who had denounced the neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in Charlottesville a week earlier, USA Today reports. “We are not associated with any alt-right or white supremacist groups,” the Boston Free Speech Coalition stated. “We are strictly about free speech.” But speakers at the rally were affiliated with Infowars and the alt-right, and ABC News reports members of the KKK had planned to attend. President Trump entered the fray on Twitter, initially praising the police response, and later lauding "the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one!"

A second Trump tweet around the same time declared that "sometimes you need protest in order to heal, & we will heal, & be stronger than ever before!" Boston officials had hoped people on both sides would stay home, deploying 500 officers to quell any potential violence. Instead the few dozen rally attendees gathered at Boston Common were surrounded by an estimated 40,000 marchers protesting neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The AP reports rally participants left soon after the event started. There were some conflicts between the sides, with counter-protesters grabbing a flag from an elderly woman, who fell to the ground, and chasing a man in a Trump hat. However, groups of counter-protesters were also seen helping rally attendees safely navigate their way to the park. Police say 27 people were arrested. (More Boston stories.)

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