A number of keynote speakers are pulling out ahead of planned "free speech" rally in Boston that will follow the deadly, race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The "Boston Free Speech" rally, planned for Saturday on Boston Common from noon to 5 p.m., is expected to attract right-wing activists from around the country. Organizers applied for a permit on Tuesday. The same group held a similar rally on the Common this spring.
Organizers of the event say they're not white supremacists. They say they're only interested in free speech and oppose violence.
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One woman was killed when a man plowed a car into a crowd in Charlottesville, and dozens more were injured, prompting a federal civil rights investigation; two Virginia State Police troopers were also killed when their helicopter that was flying over the chaos crashed.
Three of the activists planned for Saturday’s rally were in Virginia, but they have dropped plans to come to Boston.
State police say they are in contact with the state Division of Homeland Security, as well as Boston police, and are monitoring all sources, including social media. Federal authorities are also to receive this intelligence.
State officers and special operation personnel will be on standby to assist Boston police if necessary.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh spoke out about the rally on Tuesday.
"Boston does not welcome you here. Boston does not want you here. Boston rejects your message. We reject racism. We reject white supremacy. We reject anti-Semitism. We reject the KKK. We reject neo-Nazis. We reject domestic terrorism. And we reject hatred. And we will do every single thing in our power to keep hate out of our city," Walsh said.
Later in the day, Walsh confirmed on MSNBC that the city received a permit application for a so-called "Free Speech" rally.
If the city approves it, Walsh says it will come with strong restrictions such as no sticks or signs.
"We’ve watched what has happened around the country and in Charlottesville, people coming with sticks and helmets and weapons. That will not be tolerated in the city of Boston," Walsh said.
The Mayor has strongly opposed the group’s presence in Boston but does acknowledge this is a different group than the one associated with the violence in Charlottesville. His biggest concern is the message.
"Twenty-eight percent of the residents in our city were born in other countries. Forty-eight percent of the residents are first generation. We are a city of moving forward. We don’t need a group of people bringing us back," Walsh said.
A volunteer for the group planning the event reiterated that the event is all about free speech and the issues of the day.
"We're mostly concerned about people mistaking us for the white supremacists," said the volunteer.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai plans to speak at the rally.
"I've been an activist all my life, we chased the KKK out of Boston, I was one of the people who helped organize one of the largest protest against South African racism, MIT had investments in South Africa so when I find people talking about, why is Shiva speaking there and trying to corner me as though I am supporting white supremacist and why am I on the stage with white supremacists, I think it's a distraction," Ayyadurai said.
Walsh says even if the city approves the permit, the group may not accept it with all the restrictions.