Far-right protests leave United States cities scrambling to balance safety, free speech

Aug 20, 2017, 00:38
Far-right protests leave United States cities scrambling to balance safety, free speech

Today (Saturday), large police forces will be deployed across the streets of Boston ahead of the expected "Free Speech Rally".

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has vocally opposed the rally, joined counter-protesters in Roxbury.

Officials are anxious the protest will attract white nationalists in the wake of the deadly demonstrations by white nationalists and counterprotestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.

Boston police said they are prepared to handle the crowds and physically separate protesters and counter-protesters with barriers and evacuation routes in place in order to prevent the violence seen last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Organizer John Medlar said, "Contrary to a lot of the rumors out there, the objective of the rally is to denounce the kind of political violence that we have seen, a sort of rising tide throughout the country". But rally organizers said on social media that Kyle Chapman, Joe Biggs, US Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai and congressional candidate Samson Racioppi were to speak.

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Anti-hate counter-protesters vastly outnumbered the attendees of the original protest, and as of 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday Aug. 19, the clashes that everyone had feared seemed to be remaining fears only.

Later Saturday afternoon, Boston's police department tweeted that protesters were throwing bottles, urine and rocks at them and asked people publicly to refrain from doing so.

"We have made it clear that we will not tolerate incitements to violence or any threatening behavior". The Black Lives Matter Boston chapter has released a statement about their role at the rally.

Many expect McAuliffe's review will lead to stricter limits on who can march and where.

"For many years, they have ignored the problem and ignoring the problem is not going to make it go away", said Boston-area Black Lives Matter co-organizer Monica Cannon.

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Silberberg said she is looking forward to the result of a review of how Virginia cities handle permits for demonstrations that was ordered by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe after Charlottesville, where right-wing marchers had a permit.

Boston police officials have said some 500 officers - both plainclothes and uniformed - are closely monitoring the gathering. "We're going to respect their right of free speech".

"I think as a country you have a right to free speech", said Boston resident Beth Chandler, "but there's a difference to me with hateful speech and free speech". They're estimating between a hundred - maybe a thousand free speech people.

"All I can see is people", said Blanchard.

Mayors face a tug-of-war between ensuring public safety and respecting Americans' cherished constitutional freedoms of speech and assembly, said experts and local leaders. "This is the time you have to lean in, regardless if you want to or not".

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