Boston 'Free Speech Rally' Is on, With Conditions

Saturday's “Boston Free Speech” rally on the Boston Common has been reluctantly approved by the city, but there will be strict rules on how it is carried out.

The city has granted the Boston Free Speech Coalition a permit with conditions that will also apply to counter protesters. No large bags, sticks or weapons will be permitted for both rally attendees and their opposition during the rally. Dump trucks will also be used to block vehicle access.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he didn't want the group to come here, but now that they are, he said violence of any kind will not be tolerated. During an interview on WGBH's "Greater Boston", he said he's confident there won't be a repeat of the situation in Charlottesville.

"That group, to our knowledge, that's coming to Boston Saturday is not the same group that was in Virginia last weekend," he said.

The event will be limited to noon to 2 p.m. instead of the five-hour window organizers had requested.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said the primary object on Saturday is to keep people safe. In order to do that, he said the groups will be kept separated.

"The fundamental objective is to make sure everybody comes out safe while protecting people's First Amendment right to peacefully congregate in a public square," he said.

Saturday's rally comes one week after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, at a protest put together by white nationalists. Some are worried about the same kind of violence happening here.

Organizers says free speech is the point of the rally here in Boston, and they do not condone violence or hatred and are not affiliated with the Charlottesville rally organizers in any way.

John Medlar of the Boston Free Speech Coalition thinks as many as 1,000 people could show up.

"There's a lot of variables we simply can't account for - will the extra controversy drive people away or make it even more popular?" he said.

Massachusetts State Police said they're expecting a crowd in the "thousands" to attend.

The city has announced that the Boston Common Frog Pond will be closed on Saturday and that the Swan Boats will not be available for use.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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