Walsh, Baker condemn hatred, bigotry
Mayor says 'hate groups' not welcome in Boston
BOSTON MAYOR MARTY WALSH delivered a stern message on Monday to “hate groups” who may be planning to come to Boston this weekend. “Boston does not welcome you here. Boston does not want you here. Boston rejects your message,” he said. “We reject racism. We reject white supremacy. We reject anti-Semitism. We reject the KKK. We reject neo-Nazis. We reject domestic terrorism, and we reject hatred.”
The mayor made his comments after speculation swirled on social media that a rally was being organized in Boston this weekend that would attract some of the same people who participated in a “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. That march degenerated into violent clashes between white supremacists and neo-Nazis and counter-protesters. One person was killed when a car driven by an Ohio man with Nazi sympathies drove his car into a crowd. Two state troopers were killed when a helicopter from which they were observing the protests fell to the ground and burst into flames.
It was unclear on Monday whether an event was really being organized for this weekend in Boston. Walsh said no one had obtained a city permit for such an event, but other media outlets reported that a Cambridge resident had obtained a permit for a Boston Free Speech rally on Saturday. Officials said a separate “peace walk” is being planned and Walsh said his administration would work closely with the walk’s sponsors to make sure it occurs safely.
Walsh, who was flanked by state and local elected officials and advocates, said he first heard of the Charlottesville riots in between event appearances over the weekend, one of which was a veteran’s event in East Boston. “Those veterans didn’t have to be asked twice to condemn swastikas and all that they stand for,” he said.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker echoed Walsh’s sentiments during the public briefing, calling the Virginia rally “an act of terrorism.” Added Baker: “The mayor pointed out, and I agree wholeheartedly, that freedom of speech is a founding principle of our great nation. While this right has served us well, often promoting unity and tolerance, it can also be wielded as a weapon of divisiveness and hatred as we saw in Charlottesville. In Massachusetts, we accept the responsibility to loudly reject any forms of hatred and bigotry.”The governor said he would attend the unity rally if his schedule permits.
Boston Police Department Commissioner William Evans declined to share details of his department’s “game plan” if Saturday’s events turn south, but he emphasized the city’s experience handling large demonstrations in the past. Evans said his department would barricade protesters to keep them away from the unity rally and said he would have State Police standing by.