Was Boston Common rally really about white supremacy?

Ayyadurai says Walsh, Baker, media created a fiction

THE 40,000 PROTESTERS who showed up at Boston Common on Saturday had nothing to protest because the free speech rally was focused on free speech and not white supremacy or racism, said Shiva Ayyadurai, a Republican candidate for US Senate and one of the keynote speakers at the rally.

Ayyadurai on Monday said the portrayal of the rally participants as neo-Nazis and white supremacists was completed unfounded, a fiction created by the media and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker.

“It was complete bullshit. The whole thing was a racket for Walsh and Baker to set up for their reelection, as if they care for black people,” Ayyadurai said in a telephone interview. “Both of them need to get liberal votes so they mischaracterized this as a neo-Nazi, white supremacist event.”

A 12-minute video of Ayyadurai’s speech to the group, which consisted of about 50 people gathered on the Parkman Bandstand, shows him speaking with aides and supporters holding signs in the background saying “Black Lives Do Matter” and “No to GMOs. Stop Monsanto.”

During the speech, Ayyadurai outlined a number of what he alleged were racist comments by a number of politicians, including former vice president Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.  But he said racism was not the message of the group on the Parkman Bandstand.

“I don’t see any racists here,” Ayyadurai said in his speech to the group. “They want to come beat us, but we’ll give them love. We are here for love, love, love.”

Ayyardurai said he left the bandstand shortly after his speech, so he did not know what was said after that. (The rally lasted less than an hour.) But he said in the telephone interview that he was confident members of the group, which he said included members of the Green Party and backers of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein, were not spouting racial slurs.

“This was a completely, completely, completely positive event. It had nothing to do with racism. Nothing to do with white supremacy,” he said. “If there were people spouting that type of stuff, don’t you think they would have ripped apart our posters the way the antifa people were doing to people with Trump hats. Where were the fascists? They were outside. They weren’t in the gazebo.”

Asked about Ayyadurai’s claims, a spokeswoman for Walsh provided a transcript of the mayor’s comments on Sunday when he said “the Boston Police Department worked with the ‘Free Speech’ organizers to set these guidelines so we wouldn’t have a situation like Charlottesville, so we wouldn’t have a loss of life or have riots in our streets.”

Walsh also said “there were a couple of white supremacists participating in the rally, as well as a sprinkling of other people with different beliefs, and some Trump supporters. Boston Police arrested three people who had bulletproof vests on, including one with a gun on him, and we believe they were white supremacists.”

Lt. Detective Michael McCarthy, a spokesman for the Boston Police, said in an email that Nathan Mizrahi, 38, of Norwich, New York, and a second male whom he did not identify were stopped as they tried to enter the bandstand area wearing body armor. McCarthy said the “ballistic vests” belonging to the two men were confiscated and Mizrahi was allowed to enter and participate in the rally. He said police later discovered a firearm hidden inside the ballistic vest, so Mizrahi was arrested for being in possession of the firearm when he came to pick up his vest. McCarthy said the other male who accompanied Mizrahi was not arrested.

McCarthy said the original list of rally speakers included “some very controversial individuals, many of whom spoke in Charlottesville. Most of them pulled out of the program before Saturday out of concern for their own safety.”

Ayyadurai said it was his understanding that the police had set up two fenced perimeters around the bandstand. The internal perimeter was set up for rally participants and attendees. The outer perimeter, he said, was for the press. But he said the press wasn’t allowed in, and as a result was not able to hear what was said during the rally. Ayyadurai said the police refusal to admit reporters was a violation of their First Amendment rights.

Ayyadurai also said cell service was shut off in the area of the bandstand, which made it impossible to live stream the event.  Overall, he praised the work of the Boston Police Department, but said the massive police presence at Boston Common, given the nature of the event, was unnecessary and a waste of public resources. “Someone needs to be held accountable for this nonsense,” he said.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

McCarthy said the only people who were allowed in the area between the outer fence and the inner fence around the bandstand were law enforcement officials. “That was made very clear to the organizers [of the rally],” he said.

The city’s public safety plan, according to McCarthy, was based on the estimated crowd size, social media chatter regarding violence toward participants, recent violence involving the same speakers in Charlottesville, the death of a protester there, and events in Barcelona. “Not to mention all the media coverage that hyped the situation beyond where it needed to be,” he said. “We don’t ever put a price tag on public safety. The safety of the public and protection of property during such large unpredictable events requires resources to meet that task.”