The Boston Free Speech rally, which many feared would draw a violent crowd of white supremacists Saturday, was instead overshadowed by thousands of counterprotesters denouncing bigotry and racism.
The dueling demonstrations on Boston Common showed a shocking disparity in size. As Vox’s Alex Ward reported from the scene, the Free Speech rally, scheduled to begin at noon, was only permitted for 100 participants. The press was not allowed within a policed perimeter of the Free Speech rally, gathered by the Parkman Bandstand, a small gazebo in Boston’s public park.
This is the #BostonFreeSpeech rally. Very few (only had permit for up to 100). pic.twitter.com/k6axzvrjUM— Alex Ward (@AlexWardVox) August 19, 2017
Meanwhile, counter-demonstrators — which, as Ward reported, were conservatively estimated to outnumber the Free Speech rally-goers 15 to one — filled the grounds outside a security perimeter, drowning out the speeches at the Free Speech rally.
More anti-racism protesters, led by the Black Lives Matter chapter, marched through Boston Saturday from the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center to join the counter-demonstration at Boston Common. Police are estimating roughly 15,000 people in the march, according to ABC News.
Aerial view shows large crowd of counter-demonstrators marching through Boston ahead of planned "free speech" rally. https://t.co/B00N1mdhSC pic.twitter.com/RBpZtsGJvY— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 19, 2017
Counter-protesters flood Free Speech Rally in Boston, drown out organizers https://t.co/2MZpmoD9f7 pic.twitter.com/4aoJag2KCi— Newsweek (@Newsweek) August 19, 2017
The two protests come in the aftermath of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week, including when a Nazi-sympathizer drove his car into a crowd of anti-racism counter-demonstrators, protesting a white supremacist rally, killing one and injuring more than a dozen others.
The events in Charlottesville sparked national outrage after President Donald Trump equivocated his condemnation of white supremacists. Trump waited two days to denounce the hate groups by name, and went on the next day to give what was largely received as a defense of the alt-right — a fringe conservative movement that espouses white nationalist politics.
After Charlottesville, reports of similar white supremacist rallies planned for Saturday dissipated. Instead, several preplanned Free Speech rallies — which have caused controversy for being in defense of hate speech — continued to go on as scheduled.
But on Saturday, it was clear those voices were outnumbered, and outshouted.