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Zero tolerance for violence at Saturday's 'free speech' protests

20 August 2017

After marching several miles, tens of thousands of counterprotesters flooded the Boston Common and nearby streets on Saturday to effectively quash a conservative "free speech rally" shortly after it began.

City leaders reiterated that a zero-tolerance policy on violence and weapons will be strictly enforced during Saturday's events.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh had asked counter-protesters to avoid Boston Common, saying their presence would draw more attention to the far-right activists.

Judging by the on-the-ground news coverage, they have barricades set up which are meant to keep the two groups of rally participants and counter protesters separated.

The Boston Free Speech Coalition, which also goes by the name New Free Speech Movement, has a permit for 100 people to gather on the Common on Saturday, with major restrictions. After the backlash, he gave a scripted statement Monday that said racism was evil and called out the "KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups" as repugnant.

The rally will take place from noon to 2 p.m.

Counter-protesters surrounded people leaving the rally, shouting "shame" at them and occasionally throwing plastic water bottles. This weekend, Boston officials want to make sure that doesn't happen in their city. Demonstrators also chanted "black lives matter" and "our streets".

JOHN MEDLAR: Because this has gotten so much momentum behind it, with all the hysteria, people would show up to counter-protest anyway.

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Rally organizers had initially invited some of the far-right speakers who attended last week's deadly demonstration in Charlottesville, Va.

Many expect McAuliffe's review will lead to stricter limits on who can march and where.

On the other side, the message was resounding and clear: Boston will not tolerate white supremacist views and violence.

In the end, the free speech rally itself appeared to fizzle from lack of attendance, either because supporters made a decision to stay away or were unable to make their way through the massive numbers of protesters.

Boston Police Commissioner Billy Evans on Friday said "we're going to be really working the crowd real closely".

Young Americans for Liberty is a nonprofit focused on libertarian values and free speech that formed at the end of former Texas Congressman Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign and operates via chapters on college campuses.

"I think as a country you have a right to free speech", said Boston resident Beth Chandler, "but there's a difference to me with hateful speech and free speech".

Fencing and security cameras were installed on Boston Common's Parkman Bandstand Friday morning as police continue safety preparations ahead of Saturday's planned rally.

Zero tolerance for violence at Saturday's 'free speech' protests