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Boston Rally Ends Without Violence, But Was Free Speech Served?09:45
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Organizers stand on the bandstand on Boston Common during a self-described free speech rally staged on Saturday in Boston. Counter-protesters stand along barricades ringing the bandstand. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
Organizers stand on the bandstand on Boston Common during a self-described free speech rally staged on Saturday in Boston. Counter-protesters stand along barricades ringing the bandstand. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
This article is more than 3 years old.

Forty thousand counter-protesters showed up on Boston Common last weekend to demonstrate against a "free speech" rally, which they feared would attract white supremacists and other hate groups. Police put up barriers to separate the rally's speakers from counter-protesters.

Critics of the police say the tactics were an assault on free speech because the rally organizers couldn't be heard by the crowd, and because others — some who wanted to speak, and journalists — couldn't access the bandstand where the speakers were located.

Civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate (@HASilverglate) joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss.

Interview Highlights

On the importance of hearing different points of view

"First of all, the purpose of the event was to hear a variety of points of view. You do not have a variety of points of view when you say, 'Well, this person shouldn't be heard because it's hate speech, this person shouldn't be heard because he's dangerous.' That is not free speech when you only hear the people who agree with you. No. 2, for our own security, we need to hear the people who we think are dangerous — or could be dangerous — so that we know whom to watch out for. If you don't allow even dangerous people to speak, how do you know where you have to watch out of the corner of your eye?"

On media members not being allowed to access the bandstand where speakers were located

"The press should be making a lot of noise about this. They're wasting an awful lot of space and time and print by criticizing the speakers that they never heard, and they should be criticizing the city that contributed to this vast silence."

"For our own security, we need to hear the people who we think are dangerous — or could be dangerous — so that we know whom to watch out for."

Harvey Silverglate

On how he defines hate speech

"First of all, there is no such thing as hate speech in the constitutional law. People have the same rights if they are going to speak love speak, or if they're gonna speak hate speech, and it is even more important that they hear the haters so that they know what they're gonna say. You say that you know what they were gonna say, but what about the other hundreds of thousands? I will give you odds if you did a survey, you would find .001 percent had previously heard or read anything by any of these speakers."

On whether he worries about cities silencing voices they don't support

"The thing about censorship is the worm turns. The people who are in a position of control today, 10 years from now could very easily find themselves at the other end of the censorship spectrum. When we protect the right of others to speak, we are indirectly protecting our own right to speak, so that when 10 or 20 years later, the worm turns, we've established legal protections for everybody."

This article was originally published on August 23, 2017.

This segment aired on August 23, 2017.

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