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Evans: Boston Free Speech Rally Response Was 'A Great Day For Our City'

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said their plan for the Boston Free Speech Rally went just as expected, and called the day of counter-protests "a great day for our city."

Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans in a public rejection of white nationalism upstaged the small group that planned the "free speech rally," a week after a violent clash rocked Virginia and reverberated across the U.S.

Counterprotesters marched through the city on Saturday to historic Boston Common, where conservatives had planned to deliver a series of speeches but soon left.

Boston Protests
An aerial view of protesters on Boston Common demonstrating against a so-called 'free speech' rally on the Parkman Bandstand Saturday, August 19, 2017. (WBZ-TV)

"I'm really impressed," Evans told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Carl Stevens. "We probably had 40,000 people out here, standing tall against hatred and bigotry in our city, and that's a good feeling."

The times things did get testy were when officers had to escort the "free speech" conservatives out of the area and off the Common, as boisterous counterprotesters scuffled with police.

A group of officers in riot gear scuffled with the crowd and appeared to take several people into custody. Police report that some of the protesters were throwing rocks at the police.

The final number of arrests related to the rally and counter-protests Saturday totaled 33. Boston Police said they were "arrested for failing to behave in a respectful and responsible manner."

Boston Protests
Some counter demonstrators scuffled with Boston Police after the rally on the Common ended Saturday afternoon. (WBZ-TV)

"Both Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Evans asked, encouraged and urged all those attending today's events to be on their best behavior and to embrace nonviolence over violence," the BPD wrote in a post on their blog. "Thankfully, the majority of those attending did just that. Unfortunately, not everybody understood the importance of good behavior."

The full list of those arrested was posted on The charges were mostly for disturbing a public assembly, resisting arrest, or disorderly conduct, though some were arrested for assault and battery on police officers--and a Norwich, NY man was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm, and three men were arrested with knives.

Officials said everyone who was arrested during the protests will be arraigned Tuesday or Wednesday.

Boston Emergency Medical Services reports that they transported 13 patients for demonstration related injuries. Twenty-four others were treated on site and released.

Members of the Black Lives Matter movement held a protest on the Common, where a Confederate flag was burned and protesters pounded on the sides of a police vehicle.

Event 'Fell Apart'

Organizers of the event, the Boston Free Speech Coalition, had publicly distanced themselves from the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others who fomented violence in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. A woman was killed at that Unite the Right rally, and many others were injured, when a car plowed into counter-demonstrators.

Opponents feared that white nationalists might show up in Boston anyway, and turned out in force, some dressed entirely in black with bandannas over their faces. Officials said the rallies — the largest of about a half dozen around the country on Saturday — drew about 40,000 people.

Boston Protests
Thousands of protesters march on Tremont Street in Boston against a 'Free Speech Rally' on Boston Common, August 19, 2017. (WBZ-TV)

Counterprotesters chanted slogans, and waved signs that said: "Make Nazis Afraid Again," ''Love your neighbor," ''Resist fascism" and "Hate never made U.S. great." Others carried a large banner that read: "SMASH WHITE SUPREMACY."

"People really came out to say, 'Boston is united, that's not what we're about here'," Evans said.

Chris Hood, a free speech rally attendee from Dorchester, said people were unfairly making it seem like the rally was going to be "a white supremacist Klan rally."

"That was never the intention," he said. "We've only come here to promote free speech on college campuses, free speech on social media for conservative, right-wing speakers. And we have no intention of violence."

One of the planned speakers of the conservative activist rally said the event "fell apart."

Boston Protests
The Parkman Bandstand was empty about a half-hour after the 'free speech' rally started on the Common. (WBZ-TV)

Congressional candidate Samson Racioppi, who was among several slated to speak, told WCVB-TV that he didn't realize "how unplanned of an event it was going to be."

Rockeem Robinson, a youth counselor from Cambridge, said he joined the counterprotest to "show support for the black community and for all minority communities."

President Donald Trump applauded the people in Boston who he said were "speaking out" against bigotry and hate. Trump added in a Twitter message that "Our country will soon come together as one!"

He also tweeted to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to show support for the police response.

Saturday's showdown in Boston was mostly peaceable, and after demonstrators dispersed, a picnic atmosphere took over with stragglers tossing beach balls, banging on bongo drums and playing reggae music.

Rallies Across The Country

Rallies in other cities around the country, while smaller, also were forceful.

Counterprotesters marched through New Orleans, some of them carrying signs that read "White People Against White Supremacy" and "Black Lives Matter." And in Atlanta, a diverse crowd marched from the city's downtown to the home of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Meredith Dubé brought her two daughters, 2-year-old Willow Dubé and 12-year-old Rai Chin to the Atlanta rally. Dubé is white and her daughters are mixed race. She said it is essential to show children at an early age that love is more powerful than hate.

In California, a rally was held near the famed Venice beach boardwalk in Los Angeles and an anti-racism rally was held in Laguna Beach one day before the group America First! planned to hold a demonstration in the same place that's being billed as an "Electric Vigil for the Victims of Illegals and Refugees."

Mayor Toni Iselman told the crowd that "Laguna Beach doesn't tolerate diversity, we embrace diversity."

In Silicon Valley, more than 500 people gathered in Mountain View in response to a far-right "March on Google" to rally against the technology company's firing of a white male software engineer over his claim that women were biologically unsuited to tech jobs. Organizers postponed the right-wing march, alleging threats from leftists.

In Dallas, a scuffle broke out between people at a rally against white supremacy and supporters of Confederate monuments as the event was ending. Police officers had to subdue the crowd.

The rally, which authorities estimated 2,300 people attended, was at City Hall plaza, near a Civil War cemetery that houses a memorial to Confederate soldiers. Only a few hundred people remained when tempers flared and officers on horseback broke up the two sides.

The Rev. Michael W. Waters, one of the speakers at the rally, said: "Now is the time to do what is right in the city of Dallas. Now is the time to bring these monuments down."

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Carl Stevens reports

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