BOSTON (CBS) – Police are continuing security preparations ahead of Saturday’s planned Free Speech Rally on Boston Common.
A permit was approved Wednesday for the rally, planned by the Boston Free Speech Coalition.
Spokesman John Medlar said the organization agreed during a meeting with Boston Police and city officials that no weapons will be allowed, anyone can be searched, and the rally will be barricaded by police.
Mayor Marty Walsh encouraged participants to leave backpacks at home. No bats, sticks, or weapons will be allowed in the area.
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said police will be “beefing up” security, including additional fixed cameras around Boston Common.
“All we’re asking people to do is come out, voice your opinions, but do it peacefully. We don’t want anyone hurt. Clearly I Don’t want any of my officers hurt, who are stuck in the middle of this,” said Evans.
Evans sent out a letter to college and university students in the city, alerting them to the planned rally and counter-protests and saying that “our main concern is safety.”
“As I have stated in the past, please act in a way that would make your school, your family, and your city proud and please respect our neighborhoods,” Evans wrote to students. “Student behavior off campus will be regarded the same as if it were on campus.”
An FBI spokesman said the department “stands ready” to assist Boston Police if needed.
The FBI along with other federal agencies stands ready to assist our law enforcement partners should they request assistance or resources to address criminal activity or threats to national security. As always, the FBI will protect the security of our nation while upholding the civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen.
Medlar has said previously that the Boston Free Speech Coalition “absolutely” disavows white supremacy and does not condone violence like what broke out at rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia last week.
“If we really want to send a message, we want to send a message about peace and that Boston’s different,” Evans said. “We’re not about violence, we’re not about hate. We’re united against all the things that happened in Charlottesville.”
Police are concerned that fringe elements may come to Boston for the rally.
“Oftentimes we get people showing up that are unexpected and attempt to be disruptive. We’re preparing for that,” said Massachusetts State Police Col. Richard McKeon.
As part of the security plan, vendors in the area have been asked to stay closed on Sunday.
“It’s disappointing, we like to work when it’s busy and our biggest day is Saturday,” said vendor Emmalene Wallace.
Juan Pedraza, who sells Boston t-shirts, thinks he might lose business anyway.
“A lot of families will go somewhere else, not in the middle of that tension,” Pedraza said.