MEDIA PUTS ITS IMPRIMATUR ON THE SUPPRESSION OF “FREE SPEECH”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Aug. 23, 2017) — On Saturday, August 19, a Facebook group titled “Boston Free Speech” held a gathering of speakers and other attendees under the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common, one of the country’s oldest landmarks.
One of the organizers of the event, John Medlar, told various media outlets beforehand that his group stands against bigotry, supremacy and racism of all kinds. The group’s Facebook post about the event reads:
This Free Speech Movement is dedicated to peaceful rallies and are in no way affiliated with the Charlottesville rally on 8/12/17
While we maintain that every individual is entitled to their freedom of speech and defend that basic human right, we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry. We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence. We denounce the actions, activities, and tactics of the so-called Antifa movement. We denounce the normalization of political violence.
We are witnessing an unprecedented move towards sweeping censorship that undermines our democratic system. We are witnessing increasingly regular incidents of political violence being used to silence political opponents. We are witnessing our social media and online communities purging both progressive and conservative content from their networks. We oppose all instances of censorship. We believe that the way to defeat and disarm toxic ideas and ideologies is through dialogue and reason, and that attempting to silence any voice by force of mob or force of law only empowers the radical elements of society and divides us.
There is a lot of misinformation in the media slandering our name by likening our organization to those that ran the Charlottesville rally. THIS COULD NOT BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! “I can tell you the march we had in May…That group pulled a permit, they worked very well with us” as stated by Boston Police Commissioner William Evans in a press conference Monday (8/14/17)
We are a coalition of libertarians, progressives, conservatives, and independents and we welcome all individuals and organizations from any political affiliations that are willing to peaceably engage in open dialogue about the threats to, and importance of, free speech and civil liberties. Join us at the Parkman Bandstand where we will be holding our event. We look forward to this tide-changing peaceful event that has the potential to be a shining example of how we, in the city of Boston, can come together for the common goal of preserving freedom of speech for all and respectfully discussing our differences of opinion without engaging in violence.
CBS and other mainstream sources termed the gathering “controversial” and those speaking under the bandstand “conservatives.”
The group applied for and obtained a permit, meeting with Boston Police Department and city representatives last Wednesday in preparation for the event. The time frame requested was from noon to 2:00 PM.
On Friday, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh asked the “free speech” group to refrain from making any statements which could be interpreted as containing “racism,” “hate” or “bigotry.” CNN reported that Walsh had suggested that the “free speech” group’s views were “repugnant.”
“Boston does not welcome you here, Boston does not want you here, Boston rejects your message,” Walsh was reported to have said. The Boston Globe further reported, without citations, that “Although speakers affiliated with the Boston rally have sought to distance themselves from the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, many espouse similar beliefs in white pride, hatred of Islam, and support for Trump.”
The paper described the free speech gathering as “far-right” in a reference to political ideology.
Politico also framed the event in political terms, claiming that there were “fears” that “white supremacist and neo-Nazi demonstrators” would be in attendance despite the organization’s public denunciation of such groups. “But, based largely on some of the event’s controversial right-wing speakers, liberals came out in droves on a hot, humid day to protest what they framed as veiled bigotry,” Politico reported.
Newsweek appeared to celebrate that “protesters” to the “free speech” rally “drowned out” those under the bandstand, reportedly bringing the original event to an early close. “
The media, both domestic and international, triumphantly told of the early conclusion of the “free speech” rally in one of the U.S.’s oldest cities, where on December 16, 1773, a group of American colonists camouflaged as Indians protested King George III’s tax on tea by disposing of 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.
“Counter-protesters” who reportedly “did not believe” that the “free speech” gathering was not racist in nature arrived as early as 10:00 a.m. While other groups planned to protest during the “free speech” rally, they did not obtain permits from the city, as The Post & Email confirmed through a public information request to the mayor’s office on Monday.
Despite Walsh’s entreaties to avoid “hate,” a video posted by The Daily Caller shows a number of confrontations where “protesters” shouted obscenities at those with apparently different political views who appeared to have been peacefully attending the event. [Warning: very strong and offensive language; not for children. Watch at your own discretion. A link to the video is provided with the intent of educating the public as to how the events in Boston unfolded on August 19, 2017.]
On Saturday prior to the rallies, Walsh said, “We stand together against intolerance.”
The free speech rally reportedly ended at approximately 1:30 PM EDT, while “protesters” reportedly clashed with police hours later in the area of Tremont and Boylston Streets, where police had attempted to maintain a human cordon for everyone’s protection.
There were a total of 33 arrests, with CBS Local reporting that “Officers reported that some of the protesters were throwing rocks at the police.” None of the articles stated from which group the arrests came, although all affirmed that the Free Speech group was vastly outnumbered by “counter-protesters.”
According to The Boston Herald on Wednesday, “As many as 2,000 “hostile” protesters surrounded police, some throwing bottles filled with urine and punching and spitting at cops as they tried to escort participants from Saturday’s “Free Speech Rally” out of Boston Common, according to police reports filed in court yesterday.”
Earlier reports had said that at least one officer was allegedly “assaulted” and “counter-protesters” arrested for disorderly conduct for which they began appearing in court on Monday through Wednesday.
CBS posted the event permit. On Monday, The Post & Email obtained an electronic copy of the permit through its Public Information request.
CNN reported that “The counterdemonstration was organized by an array of groups, including the Coalition to Mobilize and Organize Boston against Trump, the Act Now to Stop War & End Racism Coalition, Boston Democratic Socialists of America and Black Lives Matter, according to a Facebook page for the event.”
On Wednesday, The Post & Email sent a message requesting a statement to Monica Cannon-Grant, the designated organizer of the “Fight Supremacy! Boston Counter-Protest & Resistance Rally.” That group’s Facebook posting of the event reads:
As many of you are aware, there have been conflicting reports that Saturday’s “Free Speech” rally in Boston, organized by white supremacists, has been cancelled. Several confirmed speakers for that event have publicly withdrawn due to community pressure. While Mayor Walsh, Police Commissioner Evans, senators from Massachusetts, and Boston City Council members have openly denounced the gathering of white supremacists slated for Boston Commons, privately they have also denounced the counter-demonstration being organized by Black leadership in the Metro North. It does not go unnoticed that organized resistance from our Black communities is ultimately what led to the apparent collapse of Saturday’s white supremacist rally and platform.
With that in mind, we would like to affirm that the Fight Supremacy Resistance Rally scheduled for Saturday, August 19th will continue as planned.
In recent months, strategies for Black liberation and resistance have shifted away from direct action and public protest. We understand that social movements must evolve and adapt accordingly if they are to remain effective and sustainable. Organizers of the Resistance Rally also understand that prevailing political realities have emboldened overt white supremacists to openly intimidate vulnerable communities, and subject them to unchecked fragility and hatred. The current administration has undeniably been complicit in willfully and deliberately inciting physical and rhetorical violence perpetrated by their neo-conservative base. We believe those committed to anti-racism work have a moral obligation to unapologetically confront and oppose these violent and threatening displays when they occur. We are pleased that community mobilization has disrupted the most recent display planned in Boston.
However, the Resistance Rally was also organized in response to all prevailing manifestations of white supremacy impacting the most marginalized. The events in Charlottesville this past week serve as glaring reminders of the blatant bigotry we still face today. While it is our intention to send a message to those who would subject marginalized communities to domestic white terrorism, hate speech, and violence, we also stand in opposition to the most insidious and deadly forms of white supremacy. These include, but are not limited to: mass incarceration, income inequality, anti-immigration initiatives, police and local law enforcement, and housing and employment discrimination.
The individuals and institutions most effective in harming Black and Brown people do not carry torches or wear white hoods. Instead, they aggressively patrol our neighborhoods, enforce laws unequally, systematically impose poverty, and suppress the voices and needs of oppressed communities. This supremacy is upheld by all who benefit from it, and is in alignment with capitalism, cis-hetero patriarchy, ableism, queer and trans antagonism, misogynoir, and all existing forms of oppression.
We envision a future where Black and Brown families are no longer torn apart due to systemic white supremacy. When Massachusetts Governor, Charlie Baker, cut funding for HIV programs, drug treatment facilities, and elder care services from the fiscal budget, it was understood that Black communities would be hit hardest. This year, 49 Boston public schools sustained significant budget cuts predominantly impacting children of color. Meanwhile, state judiciary and law enforcement institutions continue to aggressively spend resources to disproportionately profile, prosecute, and incarcerate Black community members. Black residents in Massachusetts are incarcerated at a rate SIX TIMES higher than their white counterparts.
In 2011, the state’s largest prison—MCI Norfolk—was fined thousands of dollars by the Department of Environmental Protection for failing to meet water supply standards. Water samples at MCI Norfolk showed elevated levels of minerals that, when ingested over prolonged periods of time, can lead to neurological disorders and other severe health issues. The Massachusetts Department of Corrections was ordered to install a new water treatment system. Six years later, and MCI Norfolk has not yet replaced the water system. The longstanding impact this will have on the Black community is incalculable.
Finally, access to affordable housing must be regarded as a social imperative in the Metro North. Recently, Mayor Walsh of Boston approved 720 new housing units in the neighborhood of Roxbury, with only 15% being made affordable to households earning $60-$70,000 a year. That initiative was touted as “progress,” despite a $30,000 median income for Black and Brown families currently residing in Roxbury. And according to the Boston Federal Reserve, the median net worth of white households in Boston stands at $247,000—compared to just $8.00 (yes, eight dollars) for Black households, and $28.60 for Latinx households.
This is white supremacy.
Saturday’s rally will stand in defiance of these abuses and amplify the voices and truths of the most marginalized. It will serve as an opportunity for local communities to reassert our collective power and autonomy, and reaffirm our commitment to rejecting proponents of bigotry and their oppressive narratives. Organizers of the Resistance Rally remain in solidarity with Charlottesville, Flint, Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, Standing Rock, Palestine, and communities of color across the globe.
We encourage individuals intent on combating white supremacy to be deliberate and purposeful in supporting those who are most affected. This means following the direction of Black and Indigenous leadership—including and especially Black queer and femme leadership. We demand to see wage increases and a redistribution of resources so Black families can escape systemic and generational cycles of poverty. We call on those striving to be allies to redistribute resources and pay reparations to Black community members and organizers in your respective communities.
Space must be created and privilege relinquished so the needs of marginalized communities can be better assessed and conveyed. If you do not know where resources are needed, reach out to Black led organizations in your area. Lastly, consider donating to Black/femme led organizations like The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Safety Pin Box, and The Charlottesville Relief Fund (www.solidaritycville.com). You can also donate to the organizers of this rally by visiting www.FightSupremacy.org.
To those attending Saturday’s rally, we look forward to your energy and presence, and remain committed to extending and advancing our organizing efforts throughout Boston and beyond.
“We believe that we will win.”
Black Lives Matter Network
Violence In Boston
Black Lives Matter Boston
Black Lives Matter Cambridge
The Movement for Black Lives
#FightSupremacy #BostonResist #BlackLivesMatter #BlackTransLivesMatter
One of the bandstand speakers, V.A. Shiva (R), plans to challenge Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) in the 2018 election and in his remarks stressed the importance of “free speech.” Shiva, who spoke for approximately 13 minutes, was born in India, identifies himself as “a person of color,” and was flanked by two people holding signs saying, “Black Lives Do Matter.”
During his remarks, Shiva said those words. He also denounced the mainstream media for labeling him and others as “racists” and said that he successfully sued Gawker.com for defamation.
On Wednesday, The Post & Email contacted Medlar, Cannon and the Boston Police Department for comment on Saturday’s events, but none responded by press time.
In Arizona last night, President Donald Trump reminded his audience that he had condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence” following Charlottesville and denounced the media for misrepresenting him in his comments thereafter.
After the Charlottesville demonstrations but prior to Boston’s, constitutional attorney and educator KrisAnne Hall wrote in a blog post that while she is completely opposed to “white supremacy ideology,” she was concerned with the “rhetoric” expressed by many that freedom of speech should be suppressed. “If members of a society can be limited in their speech by government force, then there is no defense of any life, liberty, or property; no peaceful defense at all,” she wrote.