As tens of thousands of anti-racism protesters descended on Boston to counter a Free Speech rally that many worried would attract the same white supremacist, alt-right crowd seen in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Donald Trump again chose to respond to “both sides.”
First, he chided the “anti-police agitators” among the counterprotesters, picking up on footage of “fuck the police” chants, and reports of rock and urine throwing. According to Boston Police, the events Saturday were largely peaceful. Among an estimated crowd of 40,000 protesters there were 27 arrests for disorderly conduct and some for altercations with police.
“99.9 percent of the people here were here for the right reasons and that’s to fight bigotry and hate for the most part here today,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said at a press conference Saturday.
Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017
The troublemakers, Evans said, weren’t with either side — they were just there to make trouble.
Trump quickly changed his tone about the protests, and tweeted only an hour later that such anti-racism protests will help the country heal.
Our great country has been divided for decades. Sometimes you need protest in order to heal, & we will heal, & be stronger than ever before!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017
He continued to applaud the many protesters in Boston who came out against “bigotry and hate.”
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017
It was a sudden change from the president, who has spent the past week equivocating blame around the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, which turned violent last weekend. In that case, groups of white supremacists, nationalists, and neo-Nazis went to Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in a public park, and were met by thousands of counterprotesters.
It was clear Saturday that the Boston Free Speech rally would be quickly overshadowed by thousands of counterprotesters denouncing bigotry and racism.
More anti-racism protesters, led by the local Black Lives Matter chapter, marched through Boston Saturday from the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center to join the counter demonstration at Boston Common.