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Photo Essay

‘Alt-Lite’ Holds Controversial ‘Free Speech Rally’ in Boston

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'Alt-Lite' Holds Controversial 'Free Speech Rally' in Boston

A Trump supporter, center, argues with a counterprotester at Saturday's Free Speech Rally on Boston Common, an event organized by conservative activists. (Michael Dwyer / AP)

Watch and listen to photojournalist Michael Nigro’s photo essay of the “Free Speech Rally” in Boston on Saturday. 

Another Saturday, another polarizing event in America. Truthdig correspondent Michael Nigro is in Boston to document the “free speech rally” organized by the Boston Free Speech Coalition,  along with the protest held in opposition to that gathering.

The rally sponsor describes itself on Facebook as “a coalition of libertarians, progressives, conservatives, and independents” and says “we welcome all individuals and organizations from any political affiliations that are willing to peaceably engage in open dialogue about the threats to, and importance of, free speech and civil liberties.”

The Boston Globe adds:

They are mostly young white men in their 20s from places like Newton, Cambridge, and Charlestown who like to think of themselves as “free speech absolutionists,’’ members of the group said.

But civil rights specialists say the group is “alt-lite,” and that Saturday’s event is part of a broader effort among some right-wing groups to bring their ideological battles into the streets.

Nigro relayed this report after covering the rally all day:

The far right was far outnumbered on Saturday in downtown Boston. Tens of thousands of counter-demonstrators surrounded the small contingent of alt-right advocates, whose numbers didn’t exceed 30 within the actual footprint of the permitted zone. By 1:30 p.m. the Boston police had announced that the rally had ended, and riot police were then forced to create an evacuation route for the white supremacists.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh gave a press conference praising the city’s turnout of anti-bigotry protesters and law enforcement’s response to the roiling tension. As the mayor spoke, however, a faction of counter-protesters, including Antifa, attempted to stop the evacuation of the white nationalists. The police, none of whom had visible badges, brutally attacked both protesters and journalists with batons, fists and pepper spray. At least 33 people were arrested throughout the day.

John Medlar, a 23-year-old student at Fitchburg (Mass.) State College and a member of the Boston Free Speech Coalition, told CBS News that his group does not promote hate speech.

“Reasonable people on both sides who are tolerant enough to not resort to violence when they hear something they disagree with, reasonable people who are actually willing to listen to each other, need to come together and start promoting that instead of letting all of these fringe groups on the left and the right determine what we can and cannot say,” Medlar said.

Before the rally, thousands of leftist counterprotesters marched through downtown Boston chanting anti-Nazi slogans and waving signs condemning white nationalism.

Watch Nigro’s on-ground coverage in Boston below.

Here is the second part of Nigro’s coverage in Boston.

Watch the third part of Nigro’s coverage in Boston.

Watch the fourth part of Nigro’s coverage in Boston here.

Last Saturday, Nigro was at the white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly.

Michael Nigro
Contributor
Michael Nigro is an award-winning filmmaker, Emmy nominated writer-director and social justice activist based in Brooklyn, New York. His work as a photojournalist began during Occupy Wall Street and later he…
Michael Nigro

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