Law enforcement and Massachusetts officials are stepping up security and speaking out against racism ahead of a planned "free speech" rally in Massachusetts that will follow the deadly, race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Violence will not be tolerated during the "Boston Free Speech" rally, planned for Saturday on Boston Common from 12–5 p.m.
"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," Mayor Marty Walsh said at a joint press conference that included Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans. "We are a city that believes in free speech. But we will not tolerate incitements to violence. We will not tolerate threatening behavior. We will not have it. And we will stand in solidarity as a diverse community and a diverse nation as we do every single day."
"What happened in Virginia was a tragedy and an act of terror," Gov. Baker agreed. "A tragedy perpetrated by white supremacists that disturbed, as it should, Americans everywhere. As governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I want to be clear that there is no place here for that type of hatred. Period."
"We're all here, united, to stand against the hatred of what happened that day in Charlottesville," Evans said. "We're often, as police officers, sort of thrust in the middle of protecting groups that we don't necessarily agree with, and I think that, very much, can be the case on Saturday when this particular group wants to come to the Boston Common," "I'm very confident in our plan. I think we've handled major demonstrations in this city ... I'm confident that the people who do come down, and are going to march, are going to be safe."
Evans added that there will be a strong "uniformed presence" during the rally.
"All I ask, and I'll say, is we do anticipate large crowds, but we expect best behavior out of people," he said. We will not tolerate any acts of violence or any misbehavior or any vandalism whatsoever."
"State police, along with the Boston Police, and other state, local and federal officials, will work closely with community organizing groups and others to monitor the situation and take the necessary precaution to make sure that everyone plays by the rules, and that we have a safe weekend here in Massachusetts," Gov. Baker said.
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.
The Boston rally organizer, who would only give his first name of Steven, said his group is not connected to the groups responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, adding they are not white supremacists and are only interested in free speech.
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.
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State officers and special operation personnel will be on standby to assist Boston police if necessary.
Earlier Monday, the ACLU of Massachusetts said its chapter "forcefully condemns racism, white nationalism and all forms of bigotry," but that it also condemns those planning to be violent "under the guise of exercising civil liberties.
"And we condemn President Donald Trump in encouraging — and in his recent comments and tweets, implicitly supporting — those voices of hate and violence."
President Trump had initially criticized violence on "many sides," prompting criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike for failing to denounce the groups by name. But Monday afternoon, Trump condemned violent white supremacists as "criminals and thugs."
"Racism is evil," President Trump said, singling out the hate groups as "repugnant to everything that we hold dear as Americans."