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Boston mayor on possible conservative rally in city: 'I don't want them here'

By LAUREL J. SWEET
Boston Herald

August 14. 2017 8:06PM


Mayor Martin J. Walsh is exploring legal and tactical options for shutting down or containing Saturday’s planned conservative rally on Boston Common after the violence-plagued Virginia protest — which included some of the same speakers listed for Boston’s event.

Walsh’s office said no one representing the Boston Free Speech Rally had pulled permits as of Monday for the event, though flyers are already circulating for a five-hour protest that kicks off at noon Saturday.

“I don’t want them here, we don’t need them here, there’s no reason to be here,” Walsh said yesterday.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has called the killing of Heather Heyer, 32, along with the injuries to 19 others when James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio allegedly plowed a car into counterprotesters, a case of “terrorism,” a term echoed by Walsh. Fields was fascinated with Nazism and admired Adolf Hitler, a former teacher told The Associated Press.

“There’s no question about it,” Walsh said about calling the incident terrorism.

Walsh said he has already discussed the looming rally with police Commissioner William B. ­Evans and intends to meet with police brass today, while his office is looking into any possible legal grounds for blocking the rally entirely. State police are also conferring with Boston police, spokesman David Procopio said.

Baker administration press secretary Billy Pitman said, “State officials are in touch with Boston law enforcement to monitor the situation and ensure everyone’s safety. Governor Baker is saddened and disturbed by the tragic events in Charlottesville, and believes hatred, bigotry and violence, as well as those who promote it, have no place in our commonwealth or country.”

If need be, Walsh said, he’ll join the counterprotest himself.

“I’m not afraid of that. There’s no question I’m not afraid of that at all,” Walsh said. “What we need is leadership to step up here and denounce the hate and violence of these white supremacists. We don’t need to go backward, we need to go forward. Freedom of speech isn’t about racist remarks and division ... I don’t want that type of hate to come to our city. We’ve worked too hard to move beyond all of that.”

But Brandon Navom, a Lowell software engineer with a “constitutional conservative background” who is one of the listed speakers, insisted the rally is not about hate.

“This is not a Nazi group; this is not a racist group. This is a group of people who simply believe that free speech is a fundamental bedrock principle of our society. When people can’t express their frustrations in words, that’s precisely when they turn to violence, sticks, bats, bricks and bombs.”

Navom declined to identify who is behind the rally, but said contrary to news reports, white nationalist Jason Kessler, who organized Saturday’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, is not involved.

Boston Free Speech turned to Facebook Saturday to distance itself from Kessler, posting, “We are not in any way associated with the organizers of the Charlottesville rally.” The group identifies its ideology with the statement: “We stand for free speech in all forms from all sides of the political spectrum. In Boston and New England.”

At least two so-called alt-right personalities who were listed as speakers for the Charlottesville rally are advertised for Saturday’s event in Boston. Augustus Sol Invictus, a libertarian and former U.S. Senate candidate from Florida, and Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet, who worked with former Breitbart News senior editor Milo Yiannopoulous.

As many as 1,000 people are expected to rally on the Common, with left-leaning counterprotestors promising a major response.

“We’re hoping to be able to peacefully assemble on the Boston Common and be able to express our views and opinions,” said Navom, a Republican who noted he does not support President Trump. “I’ve spoken with the organizers and they’ve assured me that everyone attending has been told there is to be no initiation of violence in any way, shape or form from our side. We’re trying to be very cognizant of that tragedy. It was a horrible event and we don’t want anything like that to happen again.”


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