Boston Free Speech Rally Tries Simultaneously To Court, Distance Itself From Hate

In the wake of the horrors the country witnessed in Charlottesville last weekend, the organizers of the “Free Speech Rally” scheduled in Boston this Saturday are back-pedaling as hard as they can to distance themselves from the alt-right. In the past few days, no doubt under pressure from event organizers to manage public perception, Holocaust denier Augustus Invictus has stepped down from speaking, alt-right provocateur Tim Treadstone, ie. “Baked Alaska”, has pulled out from the event, and alt-right organizer Gavin McInnes, founder of the (get ready for some dog-whistling) “pro-Western fraternal organization” Proud Boys, has stepped down as well.

However, the Boston Free Speech Rally continues to court the alt-right. Despite organizers’ stated positions against violence, their current roster of speakers includes far-right Western nationalist and three-time violent felon Kyle Chapman, founder of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights “military division” of the Proud Boys, whose claim to fame is hitting people at protests with a curtain rod. Also included on their roster is Joe Biggs, an Infowars contributor known for pushing the “Pizzagate” conspiracy and noted violent misogynist.

An organizer of the Fight Supremacy! counter-rally, Monica Cannon, said it best: “I feel like that language [about freedom of speech] is just a mask-over for the fact that they are actually neo-Nazis and racists and white supremacists,” Cannon said. “If you pay attention to the flyers that they’ve transmitted all over social media, they are specifically inviting neo-Nazis, Trump supporters, and those who are racist and white supremacist.”

The attempts by the Boston Free Speech Rally to distance themselves from Charlottesville’s violence while still supporting the movement that created it are profoundly dangerous. Under the guise of promoting free speech, these organizers invite speakers known for the sort of rhetoric that has historically led to unconscionable harm to our most vulnerable populations.

We have a President in office whose disavowals of white supremacy following Charlottesville were tepid at best because he didn’t want to offend his base, in significant part comprising the loose coalition of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and “Western nationalists” that make up the alt-right. He and his supporters have spent the past week equating the violent aggression of those who shouted anti-Semitic slogans and called for a white ethno-state, with the community defense provided by antifascist activists who took an uncompromising stance against intolerance and hatred, one of whom lost her life. Just like using the language of “free speech” to mask the spread of hatred, this equivocation is unacceptable and must be resisted with all our might.

The First Amendment gives hate-mongers the right to speak, but it doesn’t give them the right to be heard. We must raise our own voices, drown them out and let them know that they’re not wanted. Join thousands in the Common on Saturday to condemn the organizers of the “Free Speech Rally,” and help make sure that its attendees find Boston to be a wholly unwelcoming environment for their views.