Mayor, elected officials denounce planned white supremacist rally
Civic leaders call for calm as supremacists plan rally
In a message aimed at white supremacist groups who are reportedly planning a rally on the Boston Common this coming Saturday, Mayor Martin Walsh pledged that city officials would “do every single thing in our power to keep hate out of our city.”
Speaking during a press conference in front of City Hall and backed by local and state officials and Boston civic leaders, neither Walsh nor Police Commissioner Bill Evans would disclose specific tactics they will use to block or contain the planned demonstration, which comes on the heels of a white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia that left one counterdemonstrator dead and sparked concern across the country about a resurgence of white extremism.
“Boston does not welcome you here,” Walsh said addressing the rally organizers. “Boston does not want you here. Boston rejects your message.”
The Charlottesville rally featured several dozen so-called “alt-right” demonstrators from across the country who came to the University of Virginia to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Carrying tiki torches, the demonstrators shouted racist and anti-semitic slogans and clashed with counter-demonstrators, causing injuries. Saturday, an Ohio man with ties to extremist groups plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring 35.
Further stoking the fire, President Donald Trump denounced “the egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” in remarks to the press Saturday, failing to single out white supremacists as the aggressors and instigators of Saturday’s violence. After two days of widespread condemnation, including from prominent Republicans, Trump Monday issued a more strongly-worded statement denouncing the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Walsh denounced Trump for having been shamed into denouncing neo-Nazis.
“This was never a ‘many sides’ issue. This is a right and wrong issue,” Walsh said Monday. “We heard the rhetoric at those campaign issues. We heard the silence this weekend. Don’t hand hatred a megaphone and pretend you can’t hear it.”
Prior to speaking to the news media Monday, Walsh and Commissioner Evans met with a group of civic leaders to discuss the city’s response to the Saturday rally and planned counter demonstrations, which may bring thousands to the Boston Common.
NAACP Boston Branch President Tanisha Sullivan, who attended University of Virginia, which abuts Charlottesville, said the white supremacist march and ensuing violence do not square with her experience of the city.
“It’s hard to see people attempting to pull that city apart,” she said. “I think there will be attempts to do this in Boston. What I’m praying for is that we’ll stand together as a community and not let that happen.”
District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson also called for unity in the face of the planned rally.
“Let us use these dark times as an opportunity to spread the light of our shared humanity,” he said in a message posted on his Facebook page and emailed to news media outlets.
While flyers for the march have been posted on social media and organizers have contacted local news media, no one has yet reached out to police or city officials for a permit, Commissioner Evans noted.
Walsh said the city’s first line of defense will be to stop the white supremacist groups from demonstrating, but would not elaborate on how the city would achieve that objective.
Evans stressed that police would keep the white supremacist demonstrators apart from what will likely be a substantially larger counter-demonstration.
“We’re often as police officers sort of thrust in the middle of protecting groups that we don’t necessarily agree with,” he said. “That could be the case on Saturday when this particular group wants to come to the Boston Common.”
Police response, Evans said, will include so-called public order platoons waiting nearby on buses as well as undercover officers among the demonstrators. He stressed that officers will act swiftly if laws are broken.
“We will not tolerate any acts of violence, any vandalism or misbehavior,” he said.
When asked whether he planned to attend the counter-demonstration, Walsh said he would.
“We don’t view it as a counter-protest,” he said. “We view it as solidarity with the people of Virginia, to stand with them against hate and racism. If there is to be a march or a protest on Saturday, we will stand with them.”
Baker, who was criticized for not attending the women’s march in January or any of several anti-Trump demonstrations, was less committal about attending a solidarity demonstration.
“I actually don’t know what’s on my calendar Saturday, but if I can come, I will come,” he said.