Violence won’t be tolerated at ‘Free Speech Rally’ on Boston Common, mayor says

BOSTON (WHDH/AP) — Boston’s mayor and police commissioner say about 500 officers are being deployed to make sure there is no violence involving people attending a free speech rally and planned counterprotests this weekend.

Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday that officials “will not tolerate any incitements of violence” at the rally planned for Saturday on Boston Common.

“If you’re looking to start trouble, no matter who you are, stay away from Boston. We don’t want you here,” Walsh said.

The Boston Free Speech Coalition says its rally Saturday has nothing to do with white nationalism and they are not affiliated with the organizers of a rally in Virginia last weekend that erupted into violence and left one person dead.

But Walsh and other critics say many of the speakers invited to the rally “spew hate.”

“We don’t respond to hate with hate. We respond to hate with peace. We want people to be civil,” Walsh said.

A coalition leader has said as many as 1,000 people could show up at its rally. Organizers of a counterprotest expect as many as 20,000 to 30,000 people to join them on a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) march.

Boston police said they are preparing for the worst. Officers will be standing at the ready and dressed in riot gear in case things get out of hand.

“We’ll have eyes and ears all over that place. We’ll have officers undercover. We’ll have officers with roaming cameras,” said Police Commissioner William Evans. “We will not tolerate any misbehavior, violence or vandalism whatsoever.”

Barricades will be used to keep protesters and counter-protesters separated. New surveillance cameras have also been installed in the area.

“If the free speech rally goes out of control, first sign of a problem, we’re going to shut it down,” Walsh said.

State police and FBI officials will work closely with the city to ensure the safety of all who attend the rally.

“The state will support the city’s efforts to ensure that public safety is preserved,” Gov. Charlie Baker said.

“Punch Nazis” was written in chalk on the Common’s Parkman Bandstand, where the rally will be held from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Evans says he won’t hesitate shut the rally down at the slightest sight of violence.

Swan Boats, the Boston Common parking garage and Frog Pond will all be closed.

7News will be covering the rally and counter protests on Saturday morning.

 

 

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