Cities Avert Repeat of Charlottesville Violence and Mayhem
Local officials, police successfully keep peace between protestors, counterprotestors at 'free speech' rallies
The Boston Police Department prevented a dreaded repeat of last weekend’s deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, as a small group of demonstrators and much larger group of counterprotesters took to the city Saturday.
Boston and several other cities across the country braced themselves for rallies, protests and counterprotests the week after the “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in Charlottesville fueled racial tensions and resulted in violence, when members of the extreme Right and the extreme Left clashed. One woman died and roughly 20 other people were injured in Charlottesville. As a result, cities, mayors and officials across the country extensively prepared themselves for protests.
Controversial rallies were set to occur throughout the day and into the night throughout the U.S., and the "Free Speech Rally" in Boston that began late in the morning and ran until midafternoon became the focus of intense media coverage, as thousands of counterprotesters vastly outnumbered the dozens of rally attendees.
The Boston Herald reported that up to 30,000 counterprotesters showed up to protest racism, neo-Nazism and President Donald Trump. Groups involved in organizing the counterprotests included the Coalition to Organize and Mobilize Boston Against Trump, the Boston Democratic Socialists of America, ANSWER Coalition Boston, and the Boston Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Although many counterprotesters decried racism and other forms of hatred and bigotry, the "Free Speech Rally's" organizer, the Boston Free Speech Coalition, publicly attempted to distance itself from the white nationalist-fueled "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville.
"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," the event's official Facebook event page description read. "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 look forward to this tide-changing peaceful event that has the potential to be a shining example of how we, in the city of Boston, can come together for the common goal of preserving freedom of speech for all and respectfully discussing our differences of opinion without engaging in violence," the description continued.
In preparation for the protests, Democratic Boston Mayor Marty Walsh took to Twitter and asked everyone "to be peaceful today and respect our City" while exhibiting "love, not hate," adding, "We stand together against intolerance."
In addition, the local police and law enforcement prohibited attendees from bringing firearms, knives, fireworks, shields, and objects that could be used as weapons, such as flag poles, bats, clubs and sticks. The police deployed approximately 500 officers in uniform and undercover and used barriers to separate the "Free Speech Rally" attendees from the counterprotesters.
"The Boston Police expects everyone to act respectfully and responsibly," the City of Boston's website advisory read. "We intend to provide a safe and peaceful chance for people to exercise their constitutional rights. We will not tolerate violence or property damage of any kind. If you engage in illegal behavior, you will be subject to arrest and prosecution to the fullest extent of the law."
The city of Charlottesville fielded criticism in the aftermath of the "Unite the Right" rally as some accused the local officials of failing to adequately prepare for the clashes between marchers and counterprotesters.
The protest and counterprotests in Boston remained largely peaceful, although some scuffles occurred and some counterprotesters pelted police officers with a variety of objects. More than 20 arrests were made during the course of the protests, The Boston Globe reported.
Trump himself issued a series of tweets in which he responded to the day's events in Boston.
"Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you," Trump tweeted. "Great job by all law enforcement officers and Boston Mayor @Marty_Walsh."
The president himself faced a deluge of backlash for his responses to the Charlottesville rally. Last week, Trump condemned the "many sides" who engaged in extremism and violence, leading detractors to criticize him for failing to focus on white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan, in particular. On Monday, the president explicitly condemned those groups by name before commenting again on Tuesday and blaming "both sides" for the violence.
But Trump offered two other tweets in the aftermath of the Boston protests that were more conciliatory in tone.
"Our great country has been divided for decades. Sometimes you need protest in order to heal, & we will heal, & be stronger than ever before!" Trump tweeted, before offering praise for the peaceful counterprotesters. "I want to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one!"
Rallies were also scheduled to occur in Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, Louisville and other cities across the country throughout the day and during the evening.
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