BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) – What was originally a rally held by self-proclaimed conservatives and libertarians, developed into escalated tensions between counter protesters and law enforcement. But police came prepared, increasing their forces ahead of Saturday’s protest.
Sirens blared as police trucks exited the Boston Common after crowds surrounded the area at the Boston Free Speech Rally.
“The police presence is pretty known. There are many officers on bikes. There are fences set up,” said Luc St. Onge, a demonstrator from Las Vegas.
Despite some demonstrators initially feeling safe, they required police escort to exit the Parkman Bandstand.
“Right now the left says, you can only say what we agreed to. If we don’t agree with what you say, you’re a racist, you’re a bigot, you’re a this, you’re a that,” said Mary, a demonstrator attending the Boston Free Speech Rally. “Threats have occurred. Some people have had death threats.”
Thousands of counter protestors outnumbered demonstrators and marched through the streets of Boston. They were met by dozens of police in riot gear with batons and zip tie hand cuffs.
Despite calls for peaceful protests, tensions ecalated between law enforcement and counter protestors who questioned why police riot gear surrounded them.
What organizers set out to be a peaceful protest led to multiple arrests. State and local police both walking and on bicycles patrolled the area to keep crowds under control. More than 500 police officers were at the rally, including K-9 units and mounted police officers.
Zack Hawkins told 22News, “We came here knowing that there’s a possibility that we could be killed. If I die fighting for my rights and others like me’s rights then I’m totally willing to do so.”
Boston Emergency Medical Service was also there to keep people safe.
Rocks were thrown at officers during the protest. Both demonstrators and protestors largely dispersed from the Boston Common late Saturday afternoon.