Free speech rally draws dozens, leads to three arrests

Free speech rally draws dozens, leads to three arrests
Counter-protesters stand against the Rally for the Republic, a free-speech rally, in Boston Common. / Photo by Riley Robinson

By Morgan Lloyd, news staff

Dozens of protesters and around 100 counter-protesters gathered on Boston Common Saturday for the Rally for the Republic, an event held in support of free speech that resulted in three arrests.

The event began at noon with speeches on the bandstand before rally-goers marched to the State House, waving Trump flags and banners for Boston Free Speech, an organization affiliated with Resist Marxism, the event organizers. Police separated a wall of counter-protesters from the event and searched everyone who tried to attend.

“We are on the side of God. They are on the side of evil,” said speaker Kyle Chapman, a right-wing organizer famous for fighting Antifa protesters with a wooden pole at the University of California, Berkeley. “Guys, you have to fight. You have to sacrifice. I’m facing eight years in prison for my actions at the first battle of Berkeley and I have not stopped.”

The rally attracted several notable political figures, such as activist Vermin Supreme and independent candidate for Massachusetts senator Shiva Ayyadurai. A common theme in speeches was the oppressive tactics of liberal groups and politicians. Several, like speaker Steve Baldassari, said left-wing groups such as Antifa were promoting fascist and racist beliefs.

“The big lie is that fascism and Nazism are on the right. They’re not,” Baldassari said.

Somerville resident Ben Sherman, who attended as a counter-protester, saw the rally as an excuse to promote white supremacy

“It seems the free speech in question is the right to be hateful and abuse others,” Sherman said. “What are they protesting? It’s not like there’s a major Marxist movement going on.”

Speaker Samson Racioppi, a student at Suffolk University, sought to distance the rally from the accusations of white supremacy.

“I issue a challenge to anyone here who identifies with Nazi ideology,” Racioppi said. “Don’t be a coward. Raise your hand and let it be known that you’re a Nazi. All these protesters came here to denounce this. If you’re here today, give them something to see, because they’re definitely looking for a show and we’re not them.”

According to the Boston Police Department, three people were arrested over the course of the rally: two for disorderly conduct and one for assaulting a police officer. Otherwise, the event remained peaceful, though confrontational.

For Jim McDonald, a resident of Queens, New York, who stood holding a sign saying ‘Build the Wall,’ the anger from the counter-protesters was gratifying.

“I was here on Aug. 15. I was afraid to show my sign then,” McDonald said. “I told myself, today I’m going to show my sign no matter what.”

The counter-protesters responded to the speeches with frequent chants of “No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.”

“I’m hoping at the very least to show that the people who want equality outnumber the people who want white supremacy,” said counter-protester Emily Ross of Belmont, Massachusetts. “The minority shouldn’t be the only one who gets to say their thing.”

Resist Marxism applied on Sept. 18 for a permit to protest but were denied. Boston Parks Department Commissioner Christopher Cook cited a conflict with the Camp Harbor View Citython 5K, which was held earlier the same day. Undeterred, the organizers decided to hold the rally anyway.

The speeches closed with Joey Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer, an organization known for organizing rallies promoting free speech and right-wing causes. Gibson, who traveled from Oregon to attend the demonstration, finished his speech with a prayer.

“God, I ask that you help give us the strength, the inspiration, the motivation to preach your word, to preach freedom and to continue going around on the East Coast and the West Coast to promote some of the most beautiful things in the world,” Gibson said.

After the speeches concluded, police escorted the rally-goers to the State House, where they displayed their flags and banners.

“My family has been fighting for freedom in this country since the Boston Tea Party,” Chapman said. “We’ve been fighting for this [expletive] for a long time, guys, and I am just one in a long line of warriors fighting for freedom. And you guys, all of you, are warriors.”

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