BOSTON—Hours after he had been escorted from Boston Common in a police van, one of the organizers of the “free speech” rally was still shaken up.
“I honestly thought I was going to die in there,” Steven said of the “paddy wagon” in which he and 16 others were escorted from a gazebo that hosted the “Boston Free Speech Rally.”
The Saturday afternoon event was billed as an event to advocate for First Amendment rights, but in wake of the violent Charlottesville meeting of white supremacists, it was widely thought to be another neo-Nazi rally.
That belief drew an estimated 40,000 people out to protest them, a human river that made the gazebo look like a speck by comparison. Separating two sides were acres of grass, gates, and police. The city had deployed more than 500 officers to the event.
Steven, a 17-year-old high-school dropout who declined to give his last name due to fear of retribution from “antifa” groups, claimed there were about 50 people with him. The event ended prematurely when Steven’s group was told 15,000 marchers from Roxbury were coming.
Tens of thousands of people screamed and chanted on the outer rings, yelling “Fuck your voice!” to the ralliers as they rushed past the gates and to the gazebo, with the assistance of police.
“I want to do to them what they did to my grandparents,” yelled a woman named Rina, wearing a red dress plastered with black and white photos of the Holocaust.
Despite widespread fear among rally attendees of “antifa violence” the only injuries sustained by the libertarian-leaning group was when Steven claims a zip-tied counter-protester in the van fell on top of his face and broke his glasses. He was able to temporarily mend his frames for his journey home, via public transportation.
“It was really hot in there and everyone was panicking,” he said.
He added that though he believes the few who gathered today “made an impact,” he does not plan to organize a similar event soon. “Definitely not in the near future,” he said.
The event booked 15 people to speak, according to Steven, but only two did: Deaconess Anne Armstrong of “The Healing Church,” who could be seen blowing marijuana smoke out of a shofa prior to the event, and Shiva Ayyadurai, a scientist who claims he invented email and is running against Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
None of this could be seen by the thousands who came to protest against the group. Or by the press, who was also blocked from attending.
The only audible cry that could be heard from outside the pavilion where they were gathered was a brief chant of “BPD” for the Boston Police Department
At least one speaker was not able to join the group.
“Don’t touch me!” and “Don’t fuck with me!” Rinaldo Del Gallo, a man with long, curly gray hair and a Bernie Sanders t-shirt, yelled as he made his way to the gated entrance to the gazebo, which was now sealed shut with zip-ties.
He was apparently one of the speakers slated to talk at the event.
“I’m a speaker, I’m going to sue you if you don’t let me in,” he yelled to a Boston Police Officer.
“I probably really will sue them,” he told The Daily Beast. “I mean, I can’t speak without being arrested, we have a permit.”
Del Gallo says he doesn’t know the other speakers. “They might have been extremists, I don’t think it should be stopped. But basically I think you should be able to speak unless you are presenting clear and present danger and I don’t think these guys are inciting violence.”
“I think a lot of people who are respectable progressives are being labeled antifa. I think there are a lot of people who are respectable conservatives who are being labeled as white supremacists.”
Those there to support the rally were mostly young men from Massachusetts, in their teens and early 20s, as well as several young men of color, and a few women. One man was from New Hampshire, and another was from South Carolina but said he was in Boston to attend a college graduation.
When asked why they were there that day, most gave vague answers about free speech without citing what speech in specific they were there to protect. All denounced the KKK and neo-Nazis, several also denounced white nationalists, others said they “plead the fifth.”
Yet Steven said the white supremacists “have a point in where we shouldn’t mass immigrate people with a lot of different cultures because it’s never going to work. It has to be a slow process to get them integrated, you can’t just take a bunch of them and expect them to integrated, they are going to form a parallel society”
Other individuals not formally associated with the rally also received the ire of the counter protesters. “Micro-penis,” people called out to a man with a “Save America, vote Republican” t-shirt on, as he was booed away from the event by a small crowd.
“This is my brother, I don’t care what people think,” said one man, wrapping his arms around him, with a hunk of burning sage.
“Take that shirt off!” yelled another woman, who said she had come to the event to “fuck a Nazi up.”
Twenty-seven counter protesters were arrested, according to the Boston Police Commissioner.
“I want to thank all the people who came out today to spread that message of love not hate, to fight back on racism, to fight back on anti-Semitism, to fight back on the white supremacists that were coming to our city, to the Nazis that were coming to our city, I want to thank everyone who came here today,” said Mayor Marty Walsh in a press conference after the event.
Jahira Dealto, who marched from Roxbury, says she doesn’t believe those who gathered today who say they aren’t white nationalists. “It’s dog whistle and bait and switch, let’s insert the right words and use the right tactics and circumnavigate our real intent, for the purpose of attempting to get their point across,” she said of their claims they were there to promote free speech.
While pleased the group was shut down, Kyle Snyder-Drumand, 26, of Boston, said he was also a little disappointed, “I wanted to see what they looked like.”