BOSTON (CBS) – About 40,000 people converged on Boston Common Saturday afternoon in a massive counter protest to a so-called “free speech” rally that fell apart and ended earlier than expected.

The rally of conservatives and libertarians at the Parkman Bandstand on the Common was sparsely attended as police barricades held back tens of thousands of men and women who came to show their opposition.

boston protests1 Massive Counter Protests Overwhelm Boston Free Speech Rally On Common

Thousands of protesters march in Boston against a ‘Free Speech Rally’ on Boston Common, August 19, 2017. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Photos: Boston Free Speech Rally And Counter Protests

There were a total of 27 arrests, according to Boston Police. No serious injuries were reported and there was no major destruction to any property in the city.  At least two Boston Police officers were hurt, one with a back injury and the other with a wrist issue.

chopper1 Massive Counter Protests Overwhelm Boston Free Speech Rally On Common

Thousands of protesters march on Tremont Street in Boston against a ‘Free Speech Rally’ on Boston Common, August 19, 2017. (WBZ-TV)

The enormous gathering of counter protesters began around 10 a.m. at Roxbury Community College.  Thousands then marched peacefully along Tremont Street, arriving at the Common before the scheduled noon-time start of the rally.

bandstand Massive Counter Protests Overwhelm Boston Free Speech Rally On Common

The ‘free speech’ rally was confined to the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common Saturday as barriers and police held back a massive protest. (WBZ-TV)

However, the “free speech” event fell apart when only a handful of people showed up.

They were huddled on the bandstand for less than an hour, while police and barricades kept the massive crowd of counter protesters at a distance.

goggles Massive Counter Protests Overwhelm Boston Free Speech Rally On Common

A member of the ‘free speech’ rally says he’s anti fascist and from New York. He didn’t want to share his name, but he felt there were too many police on Boston Common. (Photo credit: Christina Hager – WBZ-TV)

“In a city where liberty was founded, this is overzealous and too much,” a self-proclaimed anti-fascist who covered his head in black with sunglasses told WBZ-TV.

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An aerial view of protesters on Boston Common demonstrating against a so-called ‘free speech’ rally on the Parkman Bandstand Saturday, August 19, 2017. (WBZ-TV)

Boston Police declared the event over at 1:30 p.m.

Mayor Marty Walsh, police and protesters all drew praise afterwards from President Trump on Twitter.

“I think it’s clear today that Boston stood for peace and love, not bigotry and hate,” Walsh told reporters at a late afternoon news conference.

“It was a long day, it was a hot day, and the separation worked well,” said Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans.

marchers Massive Counter Protests Overwhelm Boston Free Speech Rally On Common

Thousands of protesters leave Boston Common after the ‘free speech’ rally ended Saturday, August 19, 2017. (WBZ-TV)

There were some small scuffles between protesters and police as the demonstrations ended.

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Some protesters scuffled with riot police escorting conservative activists following a march in Boston against a planned ‘free speech’ rally on August 19, 2017 in Boston. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Officers reported being hit with rocks and other objects, including bottles filled with urine.

“They were hit with a lot of stuff today and I’m very proud of the job they did,” the commissioner said of his officers.

struggle Massive Counter Protests Overwhelm Boston Free Speech Rally On Common

Some counter demonstrators scuffled with Boston Police after the rally on the Common ended Saturday afternoon. (WBZ-TV)

“99.9 percent of the people here were (here) for the right reason and that’s to fight bigotry and hate,” Evans said.  “We knew we were going to have some people who were going to cause problems.”

Most of the arrests were for disorderly conduct and assault and battery on police officers.

“We didn’t want what happened in Virginia to happen here,” Evans said, alluding to last weekend’s clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia that left one woman dead and several others hurt.

chopper2 Massive Counter Protests Overwhelm Boston Free Speech Rally On Common

Thousands of protesters march on Tremont Street in Boston against a ‘Free Speech Rally’ on Boston Common, August 19, 2017. (WBZ-TV)

“This is a potentially very important moment in time for our country here in Boston, Massachusetts to push back on some of the rhetoric and the hate, the anti-Semitism and the racism that’s being talked about and going on in our country. I think Boston can start to turn that tide,” Walsh said hours before the event.

boston protests Massive Counter Protests Overwhelm Boston Free Speech Rally On Common

Thousands of protesters march in Boston against a ‘Free Speech Rally’ on Boston Common, August 19, 2017. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

John Medlar, a spokesman for the Boston Free Speech Coalition, said earlier in the week that people had the wrong impression about his organization and that the group does not condone white supremacy.

credit jordan presley Massive Counter Protests Overwhelm Boston Free Speech Rally On Common

A counter protester burned a Confederate flag on Boston Common, August 19, 2017. (Photo credit: Jordan Presley)

Vendors in and around the Common were forced to stay away for the day for safety precautions.

The MBTA closed the Park Street and Boylston stations and the city shut down several streets for the demonstrations.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports

Comments (26)
  1. Antifa and the Nazis need to fight one another in the Octagon or boxing ring, not in the streets. Feel free to pummel each other in right context. Problem is: The skinny little Ninjas, role playing Nazis and such would with in the face of a truly brave, heroic battle.

  2. What a farce. There are no “White Supremacists” at that rally, it’s just a set up for hate groups BLM & Antifa to grandstand

  3. Gene Rey says:

    SOOOOOOooooooooo many people with nothing better to do. We need a good war with the draft reinstated. SMH

  4. What an excellent job the officials of Boston did to manage these opposing forces. The Mayor was awesome, his police also doing an incredible job. I hope both sides got a chance to be heard without hurting each other!

  5. Sorry Gary, we’ll never really know what the free speech people wanted to say because the mob pushed them out. Sort of like a larger form of what has happened to conservatives speakers at college campuses. Yes, we live in scary times. I guess free speech is OK as long as the mob doesn’t think you are going to say something they don’t agree with.

  6. mrgrosky says:

    Please read my first person observation of the Boston rallies today (with nearly 200 photos). It was–as the police chief said, 99.9 percent peaceful, with 27 arrests out of over 40,000 demonstrators. Hardly anyone (including me) saw any violence whatsoever! https://www.facebook.com/pg/WorldViewWithMitchellGrosky/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1721773648125139

  7. Dedra Turner says:

    “We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence,” it said. “We denounce the actions, activities, and tactics of the so-called Antifa movement. We denounce the normalization of political violence.” Yes, this is definitely something to counter protest against! Go crazy people! I would like to thank President Trump, our First Lady and endlessly numerous other politicians, news reporters and actors for selling out the right to free speech in America by siding with the extremist left side liberals that seem to be determined to destroy our country for fear that they will loot, rob and burn it down before they can destroy it from within! A free speech rally is not something that should be drown out and over rode in America!

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