Tens of thousands pour into Boston streets to decry hate

Bostonians marched, rallied against white supremacy

Jule Pattison-Gordon | 8/23/2017, 10:20 a.m.
Boston counter-demonstrators made it clear that they intended to send a message against those who would promote racism, white supremacy, ...
Activists Monica Cannon-Grant (left) and Angelina Camacho (right) lead a march from Roxbury Crossing to the Boston Common to oppose white supremacist actions in Boston and Charlottesville, Virginia. Chris Lovett

Bostonians turned out by the tens of thousands to demonstrate and chant against white supremacy and racism. An estimated 15,000 people joined Saturday’s Fight Supremacy march, and the crowd swelled to about 40,000 as marchers converged with like-minded demonstrators at the Boston Common.

The march and resistance rally responded both to the fatal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville the weekend before and to a planned so-called “Free Speech” demonstration taking place on the Common on Saturday August 19. The Boston Free Speech rally organizers denied association with Charlottesville, but their event was criticized for including speakers with ties to conservative extremism.

Boston counter-demonstrators made it clear that they intended to send a message against those who would promote racism, white supremacy, white nationalism, neo-Nazism and similar ideologies.

“You don’t get to stand in the city of Boston with your racism,” Monica Cannon-Grant of Violence in Boston, an organizer of the march, declared at the pre-march rally.

“We must check white supremacy and confront it everywhere it rears its head,” said District 7 Councilor Tito Jackson, speaking to the Banner as the crowd gathered before the Fight Supremacy march.

One Free Speech rally speaker is known for founding an organization described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “alt-right” — that is, adhering to a mix of racism, white nationalism, anti-semitism and populism. Another Free Speech speaker, later said to have been un-invited by organizers, is credited with drafting a white nationalist manifesto and had headlined the supremacist rally at Charlottesville.

Some of Saturday’s Fight Supremacy counter-demonstrators arrived straight to the Boston Common, while others began the day outside Roxbury’s Madison Park High School and marched to meet them. Gatherers overflowed the plaza outside the high school and spilled across the full width of Malcolm X Boulevard and down the street as far as the eye could see.

A speaker also told the crowd that the Charlottesville supremacist rally could be intended as blueprint for other supremacists to follow and in response, “Boston is going to get a blueprint for what resistance looks like here and around the world.”

Other speakers, such as Khury Peterson-Smith of the International Socialist Organization, said Trump’s White House had emboldened white supremacists and that Boston had to stand to oppose hatred and ensure no racists ever felt welcome here.

The Fight Supremacy protest was organized by Violence in Boston, Angie Camacho, the Black Lives Matter Network and several local chapters and the Movement for Black Lives, according to the event’s Facebook page.

The marchers

Marchers chanted for valuing the lives of black and brown people, and speakers also called to protect immigrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Jews and other groups. The event drew attendees from surrounding towns and from out of state, such as Carolyn Betensky, who came from Providence, Rhode Island, to stand and be counted.

“I want the anti-racists, anti-white supremacist crowd to be overwhelmingly larger than the so-called Free Speech white nationalist crowd,” Betensky, who is white, told the Banner. “I couldn’t not be here.”