Boston and cities nationwide brace for dueling weekend demonstrations.

  • BOSTON — This city was bracing for a rally on Saturday that was expected to draw thousands of demonstrators, some of them advocating free speech, while many others, fearing that the rally would attract white nationalists, were promising a major counterdemonstration.

The dueling demonstrations in Boston, along with rallies expected over the weekend in a handful of other cities, come at an extraordinarily tense moment, a week after violence broke out in Charlottesville, Va., and as a national debate was unfolding over questions of race, violence and the fate of Confederate symbols. Here, in a city accustomed to frequent demonstrations on Boston Common, the nation's oldest public park, no one seemed certain what to expect on Saturday, while city officials announced plans for a heavy police presence and a policy of zero tolerance for violence.

"If anything gets out of hand," Mayor Martin J. Walsh said on Friday, "we will shut it down."

Other protests were expected around the country this weekend on the heels of the deadly rally in Charlottesville, where white supremacists led a protest that deteriorated into one of the bloodiest confrontations to date over the removal of a Confederate monument. A woman, Heather D. Heyer, was killed when a car was driven into a crowd of counterprotesters.

In Hot Springs, Ark., demonstrators on Saturday were expected to rally in support of preserving monuments to Confederate history. In Dallas, demonstrators said they would meet on Saturday night to protest white supremacy, and other demonstrations in opposition to white supremacy were announced for cities such as Chicago and Houston.

On Friday evening, several hundred people gathered in downtown Portland, Ore., for an "Eclipse Hate" rally. Later, others joined in, and more than 1,000 protesters marched on downtown streets, chanting, "No KKK, No fascist U.S.A., No Trump."

The march was loud but relatively peaceful. Protesters swarmed two of the city's bridges, halting traffic in both directions. At one point, they chanted, "Whose bridge? Our Bridge." Then protesters returned quietly to where the rally had started.

The Dallas event on Saturday comes with added emotion and strain. Thirteen months ago, a gunman fired on officers in downtown Dallas at a demonstration against police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. Five officers were killed in the deadliest attack on law enforcement in America since Sept. 11, 2001. The ambush began blocks from City Hall Plaza, the site of the rally on Saturday.

Dallas officials said they planned to form a barricade around the demonstration site using buses and heavy equipment in an attempt to "lock down" the area and prevent any cars from getting too close to the crowd.

Here, a Boston Free Speech Coalition rally is scheduled fromc noon to 2 p.m. on the Common. The demonstration was scheduled before the deadly clash in Charlottesville, and its organizers with the Boston Free Speech Coalition have denounced the violence there and said they had no connection with it. Rather, they say, they are appealing to "libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists, classical liberals, Trump supporters or anyone else who enjoys their right to free speech."

Yet some who attended the demonstration in Charlottesville last weekend were expected to be here, though others have dropped out, citing security concerns.

Kyle Chapman, who founded a group of right-wing vigilantes called the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, was among those expected to speak here.

"It is estimated that 10,000 #AltLeft Terrorist will be protesting and potentially attacking us," he wrote on Facebook, using his nickname, Based Stickman. "We all knew this time was coming. Honor your ancestors. Defend our Republic. This event is for the brave. Cowards stay home."

In addition, news reports circulated Friday that some members of the Ku Klux Klan planned to attend, though they said they would remain inconspicuous.

The Boston Free Speech Coalition said it would "not be offering a platform to hatred and bigotry." And John Medlar, a spokesman for the group, said it would not allow its platform "to be hijacked by the K.K.K."

The Boston police, who have worked intensely over the last week to prepare, said they would be out in force with perhaps 500 officers, some of them under cover. Multiple security cameras are already in place, they said. And officers in riot gear will be nearby in case they are needed, William B. Evans, the police commissioner, said Friday.

Officials cleared the Common of vendors and their carts, and they were shutting down the Swan Boats, a major tourist attraction in the nearby Public Garden. Marchers were banned from bringing weapons, bats, sticks, flagpoles or anything that might be used as a weapon or a projectile, and backpacks will be subject to search.

The permit for the free speech rally confines the group to the Parkman Bandstand, where police have set up metal barricades. The permit said that perhaps 100 "free speech" marchers would attend, but Facebook postings suggest that many more could show up.

Robert Trestan, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League's New England office, said the Boston Free Speech Coalition appeared to be more "alt-light" than "alt-right," but, he added, the language it used appealed to bigots and white supremacists.

"In the aftermath of Charlottesville," he said, "they have a very large platform with a very big spotlight on their message."

Mr. Walsh, the mayor, said the city had consulted the Southern Poverty Law Center on how to handle hate groups. He said the center warned that "interacting with them gives them a platform to spread their message of hate" and that it recommended that people "not confront" them.

"So we're urging everyone to stay away from the Common," Mr. Walsh said. "At the same time, we can't look away."

The mayor had begun the week by telling hate groups they were not welcome in Boston. By Friday, he acknowledged their right to assemble and express their views.

"The courts have made it abundantly clear they have the right to gather, no matter how repugnant their views are, but they don't have the right to create unsafe conditions," Mr. Walsh said. "So we're going to respect their right of free speech, and in return they must respect our city."

Part of the police strategy is to keep the free speech rally separate from those joining the counterprotest, which will consist of several groups.

An estimated 10,000 people are expected to march with groups such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy Boston under the umbrella name of "Fight Supremacy! Boston Counter-Protest & Resistance Rally." They plan to leave Roxbury Community College at 10 a.m. and march to the Common, about two miles away, arriving around noon.

Monica Cannon, an organizer of the counterprotest and the founder of a local antiviolence group, said 10,000 people had indicated on Facebook that they intended to be there, but plans were being made for many more.

"When we heard that the nationalists had planned a free speech rally here, we were like, 'No, not in our city,' " Ms. Cannon said.

She said she believed that anti-fascist demonstrators — a loose affiliation of radical activists known as antifa who have openly scuffled and sparred with white supremacists and right-wing extremists — would be present. But she added that she could not speak to their plans.

"They stand alone," she said.

All week, Mr. Walsh, a Democrat, and Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, have spoken out against racial bigotry and white supremacy and attended events in a show of unity against hatred, including an interfaith church service on Friday night.

Still, tensions here have been rising all week. On Monday night, a teenager threw a rock at the New England Holocaust Memorial, shattering the glass; passers-by quickly tackled the youth before the police arrived.

And with the national spotlight on the debate over Confederate monuments in the South, John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, said he was "haunted" by the racist legacy of his predecessor, Tom Yawkey, who resisted integrating the ball club long after every other club in Major League Baseball had hired black players. Mr. Henry said he wanted to lead an effort to rename Yawkey Way, a public street outside Fenway Park, "in light of the country's current leadership stance with regard to intolerance."

Katherine Q. Seelye wrote this in the New York Times, August 19, 2071. Jess Bidgood contributed reporting from Boston, Manny Fernandez from Dallas, and Courtney Sherwood from Portland, Ore.


August 19' 2017

Addendum. Brave protesters against hate, be safe

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