Counter-protesters outnumbered the alt-right on Saturday. All photos by author.
Repeating the scene from last summer, over 300 counter-protesters showed up to outnumber members of the so-called “alt-right” — the umbrella term for a collection of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and internet-immersed right-wingers — at a rally held in Boston’s City Hall Plaza on Saturday.
The counter-protesters were a diverse group of activists with the support of organizations like the May Day Coalition, Black and Pink, Black Lives Matter Boston, and the Boston Democratic Socialists of America. They carried signs that denounced hate speech, criticized discrimination, and showed support for immigrants and causes like Black Lives Matters.
A group called Free Speech Boston organized the right-wing rally, and titled the event a “march against far left violence.”
Free Speech Boston denies being a hate group, but is associated with hate groups like American Guard, a New Hampshire organization which the Anti-Defamation League identifies as a white supremacist group. The group’s vice-president, John Camden, was present on Saturday. In fact, some protesters confronted him and drew attention to his neck tattoo, which appears to be a Nazi wolfsangel.
The rally also marked the anniversary of last year’s “free speech” event, organized by the same right-wing group, and which attracted even larger numbers of counter-protesters to the Boston Common. The far right attempted a similar, permit-less rally a few months later, and once again, demonstrators overwhelmed them. While there were fewer counter-protesters at this year’s event, they still dwarfed the two-dozen right-wingers in the plaza.
Bicycle police formed a barrier between the ralliers and demonstrators. A few shouting matches erupted between members of the two parties.
Some counter-protesters criticized the police’s protection of the rally-goers, chanting “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” Last year, the police received similar criticism for escorting the rightwing organizers.
This year, some members of the press managed to get access to the Free Speech Boston members. Last year, police refused to let reporters through, which sparked debates about free speech.
The alt-right rally lasted about an hour, after which police escorted Free Speech Boston members away from City Hall. A long line of officers prevented the counter-protesters from following.
According to the Boston Globe, while one counter-protester was led away in handcuffs Saturday morning, the police have yet to confirm whether any arrests were made.
While the alt-right first garnered national attention during the rise of President Donald Trump, who garnered praised from leading figures like Richard Spencer. Trump has rarely condemned the far-right, even after public prodding to do so. Last August, a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. sparked violent chaos. One neo-Nazi drove a car into a a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring dozens and killing a young woman named Heather Hayer. Trump infamously claimed that violence came from “both sides.”