40,000 people gathered to stand up to racism and hate speech. Here's how the day unfolded.

World

8.21.2017

Boston Revisted: What Went Down at The "Free Speech" Counter-Protest

Boston is a city where people riot over sports by flipping cars and setting things on fire. After the events that took place in Charlottesville a week prior, MILK.XYZ decided to send one of our own to cover the counter-protest to a supposed “Free Speech” rally in Boston Common. Read our hour-by-hour recap from MX below. 

I was expecting a strong response to the alt-right “Free Speech” rally rumored to have repeat members in attendance; this response took form as a counter-protest of 40,000 people. Here’s a look at how the day shaped up:

7:30 AMI took an early bus into Boston, and the streets are eerily empty. Churches in the Back Bay area of the city have banners up with different messages: Black lives matter, gay pride, refugees welcome. There is a strong supportive tone for the counter-protest.

10:30 AMThousands of people have assembled to march in Roxbury, a neighborhood near the South End of Boston. Cops are flagging anyone with covered faces. People are swelling in quick, and I lose my friends in the crowd. I stand next to a man eating a donut while the speakers start. They are getting the crowd ready, leading chants, and confronting issues of inequality that exist within the United States, but are also present and unspoken in Boston.

11:00 AMThe march starts, and lasts for over two hours. We are walking towards the Boston Common (basically a giant park, if you’re not from Boston) where the alt-right rally is scheduled. People are cheering on the crowd from building windows. It’s a really neighborly vibe, even though it’s a protest. I chat with some strangers, run into a few friends, and an old man shoulder pats me and tells me my shoelace is untied.

1:22 PM

People have just finished up the march and reached the Boston Common. The day has been a nervous anticipation of meeting the other side, but there are no apparent alt-right members in sight. A cop says their rally has been cancelled.

1:30 PM

Weed smoking commences throughout the park.

1:37 PM

I see a first arrest. Apparently alt-right member is being arrested for hitting. Groups of people are yelling and chasing any identified alt-right members out of the park, but overall it’s clear that hardly anyone showed up for the Free Speech rally and things are pretty calm.

2:00 PM

The crowds are fairly dispersed. There are some chants still happening within smaller crowds, but things have died down. People start to sit in the grass.

3:30 PMCrowds rush the street as alt-right members are escorted away from the Boston Common in a police van. People are taunting the car, and things are getting rowdy. If you heard about bottles of urine and rocks being thrown towards cops, this is when that happened. Everything is drowned out by sirens, people yelling, and the fence I’m standing on is shaking. The police van is landlocked by people but eventually pushes through, and things settle down. I leave the protest once I see a break in the crowd.

It’s hard to say how things would have turned out if the original rally hadn’t been “cancelled,” but I was glad to see a positive output of people staying safe, sharing information, and making sure friends and strangers were taken care of.

Also, props to this guy for bringing hummus:Stay tuned to Milk for more activist recaps.

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