Crowds of counterprotesters descend upon Boston ahead of free speech rally

Scott Eisen/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- One week after violent protests rattled Charlottesville, Virginia, thousands of demonstrators and counterprotesters are descending upon Boston on Saturday for a free speech rally.

A free speech rally on Boston Common is set to begin at noon on Saturday, and a small number of Ku Klux Klan members are expected to attend, ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston reported.

Giant crowds of counterprotesters gathered Saturday morning ahead of the free speech rally, where some counterprotesters are holding signs that read "Hate speech is not free speech" and "White silence is violence."


Near the entrance to the rally, counterprotesters chanted, "No fascists, no KKK, no racist USA."


Organizers for counterprotests are calling their demonstration a "racial justice for solidarity march," WCVB-TV reported.

Boston city officials said they will deploy about 500 police officers to prevent violence similar to what took place in Charlottesville last weekend, where a rally by white nationalists, including neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members, over plans to remove a Robert E. Lee statue, ended in the death of a counterprotester after a car was rammed into a crowd marching through the streets.

Scheduled to speak at the free speech rally, which was organized by the Boston Free Speech Coalition, are Kyle Chapman, who caused controversy online after photos emerged of him hitting anti-Trump protesters; Joe Biggs, who previously worked at the website InfoWars, run by conservative radio host Alex Jones; Republican congressional candidate Shiva Ayyadurai; and libertarian congressional candidate Samson Racioppi.

John Medlar, who said he is an organizer for Boston Free Speech, said the group has no affiliation with the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Boston.com reported.

"While we maintain that every individual is entitled to their freedom of speech, and defend that basic human right, we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry. We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence," the group wrote on its Facebook page.

The group is largely made up of students in their mid-teens to mid-20s, Medlar told Boston.com.

WCVB-TV reported that the KKK’s national director, Thomas Robb, said as many as five KKK members from Springfield and possibly more from Boston were planning to attend Saturday's rally.

“They might be holding signs about free speech, but they're not going to say anything about the KKK or anything," Robb said, according to WCVB-TV. "I mean, they might. I don't know. They didn't really say."

Boston Police Commissioner Billy Evans said Friday that while he believes "a few troublemakers" will attend the rally, police will be "working the crowd real closely."

Anything that can be used as a weapon, including backpacks and sticks, have been banned from the rally, WCVB-TV reported.

Demonstrators should even avoid using sticks to hold up their posters, Evans said.

The permit for the event allows the rally to take place between noon and 2 p.m., according to the Boston Globe.

Other rallies are planned across the U.S. on Saturday, many of which are in response to Charlottesville, the movement to remove Confederate statues across the country and Donald Trump’s controversial press conference on Tuesday.

Rallies are planned in Austin; Dallas; Houston; Atlanta; New Orleans; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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