Boston did not take Tina Fey’s advice to stay home and eat sheetcake during a free speech rally that was planned as a kind of followup to Unite the Right in Charlottesville. Instead, tens of thousands of protestors arrived to counter the planned demonstration at the Boston Common. But it seems that there wasn’t much at the Commons to resist—some of the high-profile speakers slated for the event had dropped out after the Charlottesville backlash, and reports indicate that not only was attendance was paltry, the event was wrapping up by 1PM. But by that time #BostonResist had become about far more than the free speech rally itself.
The protestors have all kinds of grievances to address besides the likes of Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes and white supremacist Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet, two of the speakers on the bill who dropped out earlier this week. At this point the protest is directed as much, if not more, at President Trump’s response to the Charlottesville tragedy, in which he weakly denounced white supremacy and even stuck up for the Nazis, Klansmen, and pro-Confederacy advocates who planned and attended Unite the Right, saying there were “very fine people” on both sides. It seems #BostonResist has snowballed into a demonstration against the very ideas of racism and fascism and the role they have in American culture and discourse.
Given the three deaths that resulted from Unite the Right, including one murder, there has been a decisive emphasis on safety at the Boston event. The city installed special security cameras in the Commons for the rally, the police are on high alert, and all sorts of items have been banned from the Commons, including signs with sticks. Attendees have to pass a metal detector test to get into the Commons. Boston officials released safety tips and street closure announcements ahead of the rally, and Boston PD tweeted its hope that “respectful and responsible behavior rule the day.”
Some are estimating that the size of the #BostonResist crowd rivals that of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Aerial footage shows thousands of protestors filling the streets, compared to a few hundred in the Commons itself. There have been a few scuffles (as well as some low-grade trolling with a tuba), police have largely been able to keep protestors separate from Nazis and white supremacists, and the event has remained generally peaceful thus far. The Boston Police have announced that the rally itself has already ended.
A handful of rally attendees claim that law enforcement, paid protestors, or the “alt-left” are to blame for the demonstration ending an hour early, though others say they weren’t even heckled.