Boston Will Deploy 500 Officers To Keep Weekend Demonstrations Peaceful

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks to the media during a press conference Monday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks to the media during a press conference Monday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Boston's mayor and police commissioner say about 500 officers are being deployed to make sure there is no violence involving people attending a self-described free speech rally and planned counterprotests this weekend.

Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday that officials "will not tolerate any incitements of violence" at the rally planned for Saturday at Boston Common.

"We are taking every precaution necessary to keep our city safe," Walsh said during a press conference alongside Police Commissioner William Evans, Gov. Charlie Baker, and other public safety officials.

The Boston Free Speech Coalition says its rally Saturday has nothing to do with white nationalism and they are not affiliated with the organizers of a rally in Virginia last weekend that erupted into violence and left one person dead.

But Walsh and other critics say many of the speakers invited to the rally "spew hate," and a May rally held by the same group was attended by people affiliated with the self-described "alt-right" -- a conservative faction that mixes racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and populism.

Commissioner Evans said surveillance cameras have been set up around the Common and that there will be zero tolerance for any violence.

"I want anyone who comes to know that we'll have eyes and ears all over that place," Evans said Friday. "We'll have officers undercover. We'll have officers with roaming cameras. We intend to police this event as discretely as possible, not to interfere with anyone's rights, but believe me we're not going to let anything happen tomorrow."

Police say there will be no weapons allowed on the Common, or anything that could be used as a weapon. Backpacks and large bags are also discouraged and will be subject to search.

The Boston Common garage, the swan boats and the Frog Pond will all be closed Saturday. There will also be road closures around the Common beginning around 10:30 a.m., as well as parking restrictions.

Gov. Baker said the state will support the city "to ensure that public safety is preserved" during the rallies, "however big or small they are."

"We're going to do everything we can to make sure that tomorrow is about liberty and justice, and about freedom and peace, and, yes, the right for people to peacefully gather and assemble," Baker said.

Organizers of the counterprotest expect as many as 20,000 to 30,000 people to join them on a 2-mile march from the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury to the Common.

Police say they'll use barriers and "neutral zones" to keep the two groups apart.

Monica Cannon, who's organizing the counterprotest, says her group is holding nonviolence and medical training on Friday.

"We can no longer sit and ignore these issues," Cannon said Friday. "Ignoring a problem has never made it go away and we plan to send a really strong message that not in the city of Boston, you don't get to come here and do that."

With reporting by the Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom



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