A large crowd of people gathers ahead of the Boston Free Speech Rally in Boston, Massachusetts, US, August 19, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Thousands of people in Boston protested a "Free Speech" rally featuring right-wing speakers Saturday, with hundreds of police mobilized to prevent a recurrence of violence that left a woman dead at a Virginia white-supremacist protest last week.
But who exactly was behind the controversial rally itself?
John Medlar, a 23-year-old Fitchburg State University student from Newton and self-proclaimed libertarian, sought to distance himself from the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and alt-right protestors who wreaked havoc in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12.
In an interview with CBS-affiliate WBZ-TV, Medlar, a spokesman for the Boston Free Speech Coalition, who organized the event, suggested racist groups were attempting to hijack the rally.
"The groups that are trying to instigate such violence — groups like Identity Evropa, Vanguard [America], the KKK, neo-Nazis — we completely condemn all of that," he said.
Initial reports ranged from descriptions of the event as a "right-wing" rally to predictions of a "white nationalist event similar to the Unite the Right rally in Virginia
As many as 40,000 counter-protestors
accepted the latter narrative — dwarfing the Free Speech Coalition's turnout. The counter-protesters were composed mostly of left-leaning groups and activists, such as Black Lives Matter.
In a Facebook post, the Boston Free Speech Coalition stressed that it would not be “offering our platform to racism or bigotry."
The group also singled out the Ku Klux Klan.
The rally and counter-demonstrations largely ended peacefully.