BOSTON (AP) — A few dozen free speech advocates rallied peacefully Saturday on Boston Common but just like last summer's event, they were outnumbered by counterprotesters.
The "Rally for the Republic" event was held by conservative groups Resist Marxism and Boston Free Speech despite being denied a permit by the city. Police surrounded the gathering.
Rally speakers gathered at a bandstand on the Common warned that free speech was under threat and accused Antifa and Black Lives Matter groups of being terrorist organizations. White hats with the phrase, "RESIST MARXISM," were thrown into the crowd, many of whom wore pro-Trump apparel, and criticized the media and left-leaning groups for labeling them as hateful.
"I'm here because I support the ideas of free speech and the republic," said rally attendee Alex Moffett, 23, of Burlington, Massachusetts. "There are many people on the other side who believe their ideas are right and are perpetuating violence in the name of those rights." Moffett identifies as a Republican.
One of the speakers, Tammy Lee, said free speech needs to be "known, practiced and given to all."
"We, as a nation, are broken," Lee said. "We must begin to listen to each other, and not just look with our eyes and minds closed"
At least 100 counterprotesters showed up.
"It's really inspiring and awesome to be out here and to be with all these people who're rallying for a cause," said counterprotester Adrian Lee, 19, a sophomore at Boston University. "A lot of people label Antifa solely on their violence but don't realize that they're all out here for a good cause, too."
Resist Marxism has denounced white supremacism repeatedly and publicly. But the August rally came shortly after deadly violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, and it drew thousands who said they feared white nationalists might show up anyway.
Some clashed with police, and more than 30 had been arrested.
Rallygoer Brandon Navom, who claims he was fired from his job before the last free speech rally because his employers found out he planned to speak, described the August event as a "travesty."
"The government suppressed our peaceful gathering," said Navom, 37, of Williamstown. "I believe that societies which engage in discourse and spread logic and reason are peaceful societies."
No injuries were reported at Saturday's rally and counterprotest, and a total of three people were arrested— two for disorderly conduct and the other for assaulting a police officer.