Speakers, Journalists, Allowed Access to “Boston Free Speech” Event on Common — This Time, No Violence

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/11/18/speakers-journalists-allowed-access-to-boston-free-speech-event-on-common-this-time-no-violence/

BOSTON — When Alex Moffatt ventured to the Boston Common for a free speech rally in August, counter-protesters spotted his bright red “Make America Great Again” ballcap and chased after him away, as documented by the NewBostonPost in a video.

On Saturday, Moffatt returned with his hat to the Common for another free speech rally but unlike last time, the Burlington resident managed to enter the Parkman Bandstand, where the speakers were assembling. A small police escort assisted Moffatt and others away from the crowd of counter-protesters, which numbered far less than the estimated 40,000 that demonstrated on the Common almost exactly three months ago.

Moffatt recalled in an interview with the NewBostonPost his experience at the August rally and said he came across the video days later.

“It was your video, and when people saw it, one guy I went to high school with — I don’t want to give his name — but he tagged me in the video, saying that ‘white supremacist Alex Moffatt went to a Nazi rally, and we know where he works,’ and so then I got drawn into this huge argument,” Moffatt recalled.  

He added that he’s still a backer of President Donald Trump and noted that the kind of opposition he encountered in August has actually emboldened his support.

“I did vote for Trump, in part because of the behavior of those guys over there,” Moffatt said, pointing to the other end of the Common, where counter-protesters had assembled. “I saw what they would do even if you were suspected of being a Trump supporter, they’d come out as a mob and harass you over it, and I just believed that it wasn’t right, so as a matter of principle, I had to vote for Trump.”

Saturday’s rally ended without the chaos that marred the August version. This time, while police still maintained a barricade ringing the Parkman Bandstand, the rally — promoted by a slogan dubbed “Resist Marxism” — featured sound amplification equipment and media access.

Pittsfield attorney Rinaldo del Gallo, who tried to attend the August rally as an invited speaker but was turned away by police, recently sued Mayor Marty Walsh in federal court, claiming that Boston’s handling of the event was unconstitutional. On Friday he lost in his bid for a preliminary injunction, which he claimed would ensure his ability to attend and speak at Saturday’s rally.

Del Gallo, a supporter of the self-described socialist Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s failed presidential bid, still managed to attend and speak in his scheduled slot and told the NewBostonPost he thinks his lawsuit might have helped to convince city officials to ease up on security measures.

“Maybe I didn’t get the injunction but I did have a victory,” del Gallo said. “I think my lawsuit helped modify the behavior.”

As for Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Posner, who denied del Gallo in his bid for a preliminary injunction, citing in part public safety in his ruling, the attorney said he and Posner simply disagree.

“I believe that when you don’t have something, not because of the speakers, but the reaction to the speech, in my opinion that’s an unconstitutional heckler’s veto,” del Gallo said. “In other words, if you say people are going to get really offended, violent, bad, etc., that’s a classic case of a heckler’s veto.”

Asked if he saw any problems with the manner in which police managed Saturday’s rally, del Gallo said that although people “got frisked coming in, at least the people who want to speak are getting allowed in.”

Del Gallo did note however that counter-protesters were not being subjected to the same security restrictions as rally-goers.

This time, he pointed out, rally organizers were permitted to use sound amplification equipment and access to the bandstand despite being turned down by the city for a permit, apparently due to a foot-race that had been scheduled for Saturday morning — although it had ended long before the rally’s noontime kickoff.

“We have amplification, they can hear us, the media is here and I’m being interviewed by you,” del Gallo said. “Those are improvements and you have to remember, I filed the lawsuit over four things: no amplification, no media coverage, no stopping the speakers and the Boston Police are not determining who gets to speak.”

As for the rally itself, Boston Police reported only two arrests — a far cry from the 30-plus reported in August.

One minor skirmish ensued when a man toting the yellow Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag wandered into the crowd of counter-protesters.

Rally speaker Samson Raccioppi (Evan Lips — NewBostonPost)

Speakers at Saturday’s rally ranged from del Gallo, who noted during his remarks that he aligns himself politically with socialist views, to limited-government libertarians like Samson Raccioppi, a Suffolk University student.


Raccioppi in his remarks condemned protesters who had denounced speakers as neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

“We’re not afraid to show our faces,” he said at one point. “If we’re not afraid to show our faces, then any Nazis here today should not be afraid to show their faces, and I issue a challenge to anyone here who identifies with Nazi ideology — speak up, don’t be a coward, all these protesters came here to denounce this, if you’re here today, give them something to see because they’re definitely looking for a show and we’re not them.”

“No white supremacists, no surprise.”

Raccioppi also criticized the so-called anti-fascist group known as Antifa, of which he said saw the organization’s North Shore contingent publish the identities of various rally speakers on its website as part of an effort to “intimidate us.”

“It was such a fail, we’re all still here, and we’re not going away,” Raccioppi said.


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