CBSN

"Free speech rally" in Boston draws counter-protesters

Last Updated Aug 18, 2018 12:57 PM EDT

BOSTON -- A "free speech rally" held Saturday in front of Boston City Hall ended peacefully despite the presence of counter-protesters in the same area, CBS Boston reported.

Members of the free speech rally said they were defending their first amendment rights as they arrived at City Hall around noon. They said they are not white supremacists.

The city did not grant them permits for their rally, but the group marched and will hold speeches at Government Center anyway.  

The Associated Press reported that Boston Free Speech organized the conservative event. Organizer John Medlar said it is meant to call out Internet censorship and "violent suppression of discourse in the public square." According to a Facebook page for the event, the rally was also organized by Resist Marxism. 

Boston Free Speech says on its Facebook page that it accepts people with views "from all sides of the political spectrum." Resist Marxism says on its page that it was founded to "defend the Constitution against violent extremists and the Regressive Left."

Organizers of Stand Against Hate – Boston and Antifa also marched to City Hall Plaza on Saturday in advance of the "free speech" rally. Police positioned themselves between the two groups.

Lisa Gresci, a reporter for CBS Boston, said more than 200 marched to City Hall to a protest the small group of "free speech" demonstrators. According to Gresci, the protesters shouted chants of "blue lives matter" and "USA," while counter-protesters chanted slogans against the Trump administration and white supremacy.

Gresci reported shortly before 1 p.m. that police were escorting the "free speech" protesters as they left.

In 2017, in the aftermath of deadly conflicts in Virginia, a "free speech" rally was held in Boston. The small group was outnumbered by thousands of counter-protesters on Boston Common.