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Massive Counter Protests Overwhelm Boston ‘Free Speech Rally’ On Common

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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