Senate Candidate Ayyadurai Demands Apology From Mayor Walsh Over Handling of Free Speech Event

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BOSTON — A challenger to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the same individual who delivered the keynote address at August’s “Free Speech Rally” where police restricted access on Boston Common as protesters numbered in the thousands, is demanding an apology from Mayor Marty Walsh.

Shiva Ayyadurai, an Indian-American scientist whose campaign features the slogan “Only a real Indian can defeat a fake Indian” — a jab at the controversy surrounding Warren’s decision to check off a minority box marked for Native Americans when she successfully applied for a teaching position at Harvard Law School decades ago — is threatening to sue Walsh and the city over their handling of August’s event, should Walsh decline to issue a full apology.

The August 19 event, held at the Common’s Parkman Bandstand, ended prematurely ahead of the arrival of thousands of marchers organized by Black Lives Matter. Police in anticipation of the rally ringed the bandstand with a series of barriers, preventing both the press and rally-goers from moving within less than a football field’s length from where speakers assembled.

Ayyadurai in his attorney’s letter is demanding not only an apology from Walsh, but also an acknowledgment for being “wrong in mischaracterizing the approximately 40 people in the Parkman Bandstand as a hate group and as sympathetic to white supremacy.”

Ayyadurai is also demanding Walsh meet with him “and others who were in the Parkman Bandstand, and any members of the press who wish to attend, to watch the video of the rally and acknowledge the sincerity of the group’s commitment to free speech; and, take steps to prevent such free speech violations in the future.”

Timothy Cornell, Ayyadurai’s Boston-based attorney, stated in the letter that his client is seeking “an amicable resolution to the apparently widespread violations of speakers’ rights at that rally.”

Cornell then ticked off a lengthy list of what he claims were unconstitutional actions taken by Walsh and other city officials, including Police Commissioner William Evans. Cornell mentioned a comment Evans made to the media in which he apparently praised his department’s work while noting that he’s “not going to listen to people who come in here who want to talk about hate,” adding it was a “good thing” that those who wanted to access the bandstand could not, as “their message isn’t what we want to hear.”

According to Ayyadurai, those who did have the chance to speak at the bandstand represented a diverse selection of political leanings. Ayyadurai himself at one point, according to video he has from the event, declared “black lives do matter” and ended his speech by making a call for “love, love, love,” Cornell pointed out.

Cornell also referred to comments Walsh made ahead of the event urging media and the public to avoid the Common. Cornell also claimed that the barriers set up by police were ordered by Walsh and were not part of the original rally agreement organizers established with the city. He alleged that the city barred speakers from using sound amplification equipment and restricted access to the Common’s taxpayer-funded public wi-fi network, meaning the event could not be broadcast via mediums such as Facebook Live and YouTube.

“And in a clear violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, the government imposed no such press restrictions on the counter-protestors,” Cornell wrote. “The public was entirely blocked from access to hear Dr. Ayyadurai as well as others’ speech, in clear violation of the First Amendment rights of the rally’s participants.”

Cornell also claimed that Walsh and city officials denied the rally organizers’ rights to peacefully assemble, and referred to a joint October 24 letter (attached below) addressed to Walsh from the American Civil Liberties Union and various First Amendment organizations condemning the city’s handling of the event.

Voice mail messages and emails left Friday afternoon with Walsh’s City Hall communications office were not immediately returned; Friday was designated a holiday in advance of Veterans’ Day.  Ayyadurai provided New Boston Post with a copy of the letter on Friday.

Walsh and other City Hall officials received the letter Friday morning. 

The rally occurred exactly one week after a rally of a different sort led to violence, including the killing of one protester by a man who plowed his car into a crowd, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Charlottesville rally drew a host of self-identified white supremacists who apparently assembled to prevent the removal of statues honoring Confederate Civil War figures.

Organizers of the Boston rally, however, had applied for a permit months in advance of Charlottesville’s. Boston’s rally organizers did in fact reach out to some speakers who appeared in Charlottesville, according to the group’s Facebook activity, but later attempted to distance themselves from them.  

One individual who had signed on to speak at the Boston rally but later reportedly joined protesters in condemning the event was Brandon Navom, who claims he was slated to introduce Ayyadurai. Navom pulled out of the rally but later filed a $100 million lawsuit against Walsh months after he was fired from his job, apparently after his employer was bombarded with telephone calls and email messages ripping Navom over his initial connection to the event.

Cornell in his letter described Navom’s demands as “astonishing,” arguing that Navom had tried to “derail and malign the event.”

Cornell said that Ayyadurai and others are willing to work with Walsh and city officials to prompt a dismissal of Navom’s lawsuit if the demands laid out in his letter are met.

“It was as a celebration of this great tradition that Dr. Ayyadurai and his co-activists assembled as a diverse group of people at the Boston Common,” Cornell wrote, referring to Boston’s link to the American Revolution and other “defenders of liberty.”

“Millions of Americans who viewed Dr. Ayyadurai’s video have learned the truth in the days after the rally,” he added. “My client hopes that you and your administration also embrace that truth, and meet these three requests so we as a community can move forward to build a stronger and more united Boston.”

Another rally, slated for Saturday, November 18, has failed to receive a city permit but organizers have said the rally will be held regardless. The ACLU in its October 24 letter to Walsh requested “assurances” that police would not erect barriers ahead of the November 18 event in a repeat of their actions in August.

Ayyadurai is one of five declared candidates challenging Warren in 2018. The other candidates are state Representative Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman), John Kingston, a businessman from Winchester, former Mitt Romney aide Beth Windstorm, and Allen Waters of Mashpee. 

Read a copy of Cornell’s letter:

Ayyadurai Letter to Mayor Walsh by Evan on Scribd

Read a copy of the ACLU’s Oct. 24 joint letter:

CityofBostonNovember18Rally-October24 by Evan on Scribd