City Issues Permit for ‘Free Speech' Rally on Boston Common

A permit for the rally will be approved, according to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

The city has issued a permit for a "Boston Free Speech" rally planned for this weekend on Boston Common.

The Boston Parks Department issued the permit Wednesday ahead of Saturday's demonstration after organizers met with Boston police earlier in the day.

"I didn't want them to get a permit, quite honestly," said Mayor Marty Walsh, "but we also believe in free speech."

The event, one week after deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and counter-protesters, has been decried because organizers had invited speakers with ties to white nationalism. Some of the more controversial speakers have since dropped out.

Walsh said the permit comes with strict conditions.

"We don't want this type of speech and rhetoric in our city," Walsh said. "But if they decide to come, then we're going to make sure it's in an orderly fashion and that no one gets hurt."

"No sticks, no backpacks. We're going to be very strict on what can be brought in."

Dump trucks will also be used to block vehicle access.

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

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said the security will be similar to other big events, such as the Fourth of July festivities on the Esplanade. The second anything happens, everything will be shut down.

The group organizing this weekend's event held a similar rally on the Common in May. There were counter-protesters at the time, but no real problems.

John Medlar, co-organizer of Boston Free Speech, says his group is not about violence.

"We absolutely denounce the KKK, neo-Nazis, id Europa Vanguard, all these legit hate groups. We have nothing to do with them and you don’t want them here, we don’t want them here. If they want to come have their own rally, we don’t want any part of it," Medlar said.

All the same, the violence in Charlottesville over the weekend has some people worried about what could happen here. One woman was killed and 19 other people were injured after a car plowed through a crowd protesting white supremacists. A 20-year-old Ohio man has been charged with murder in connection with the attack.

A counter demonstration is already being planned for this weekend. Organizers are calling it a peace rally.

"We let both groups know if there is any violence, any misbehaving, we won't tolerate it," Evans said. "Boston is too united. We have a city that doesn't tolerate hatred and bigotry and we wanted to make that clear to both groups."

Contact Us