White supremacist rally fizzles, overtaken by massive anti-racism march

Thousands of counter-protestors descended on Boston Common.

Counterprotesters hold signs and chant at the Statehouse before a planned "Free Speech" rally by conservative organizers begins on the adjacent Boston Common, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Boston. Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Counterprotesters hold signs and chant at the Statehouse before a planned "Free Speech" rally by conservative organizers begins on the adjacent Boston Common, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Boston. Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Organizers of a self-described “free speech” rally in Boston Saturday were expecting to see a big turnout, with attendees from the same white supremacist groups that marched on Charlottesville last weekend. Massachusetts members of the Ku Klux Klan had announced their plans to participate.

But turnout on the white supremacist side was incredibly small. They were outnumbered, by the thousands, by counter-protestors, who flooded Boston Common and the surrounding streets to rally against neo-Nazis, the KKK, and racist violence.

The “free speech” rally was, by all measures, a resounding failure. According to the Washington Post, “By 1 p.m., the handful of rally attendees had left the Boston Common pavillion, concluding their event without the planned speeches. A victorious cheer went up among the counter-protesters, as many began to leave. Hundreds of others danced in circles and sang, ‘Hey hey, ho ho. White supremacy has got to go.’”

A counterprotester holds a photo of Heather Heyer on Boston Common at a "Free Speech" rally organized by conservative activists, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Boston. Heyer was killed last Saturday when a car, allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr., that plowed into a group of people during protests in Charlottesville, Va. CREDIT: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
A counterprotester holds a photo of Heather Heyer on Boston Common at a "Free Speech" rally organized by conservative activists, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Boston. Heyer was killed last Saturday when a car, allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr., that plowed into a group of people during protests in Charlottesville, Va. CREDIT: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

A number of “physical altercations between police and counter-protestors” and “skirmishes” between neo-Nazis and counter-protestors have been reported from the scene, where tensions are high. But so far, it does not appear that Boston’s rallies have experiened violence on the scale of what plagued Charlottesville last weekend. (Protestors were escorted in and out of the Common by Boston police, Buzzfeed reported.)

On Thursday, Tina Fey made a much-maligned appearance on a Weekend Update special edition of Saturday Night Live. She jokingly encouraged those who would oppose white supremacists to steer clear of the rallies where they might put their lives at risk and to instead scream into a sheet cake purchased from “a Jewish bakery, or an African-American bakery.”

Boston residents ignored that counsel, pouring into the streets on Saturday morning (the “free speech” protest began at 10:00 a.m.) and organizing online under the hashtag #fightsupremacy.