BOSTON — A self-described white nationalist says he was contacted by a member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorist Task Force about helping defuse any violence at what organizers are calling a Free Speech Rally in Boston.
Christopher Cantwell tells The Associated Press on Thursday that he told the task force member that he knew of no plans by people taking part in Saturday’s rally to stir up violence, but they would defend themselves if attacked.
Cantwell attended the rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, where violence erupted and a woman was killed by a car that plowed into counterprotesters. He says he can’t attend the Boston rally because of what he calls outstanding legal issues stemming from the Charlottesville rally.
Some people fear the Boston event will be a white nationalist rally like the one in Charlottesville.
Boston granted permission for the Free Speech Rally on Boston Common, but it comes with severe restrictions, including a ban on backpacks, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon.
The permit is for 100 people and a two-hour rally Saturday from noon until 2 p.m. Barriers will separate participants from a planned counter-protest. Mayor Marty Walsh said there will be “zero tolerance” for violence, but he didn’t expect any.
Rally organizer John Medlar says he trusts police to prevent violence.
Organizers said on Facebook they are not affiliated with the Charlottesville rally organizers.
Boston will deploy about 500 police officers on Saturday to prevent possible violence
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh pointed out that some of those invited to speak “spew hate.”
“They have the right to gather no matter how repugnant their views are,” Walsh said. “We’re going to respect their right of free speech. In return they must respect our city.”
The Boston Free Speech Coalition says its rally has nothing to do with white nationalism, Nazism or racism and that they are not affiliated with the organizers of the Charlottesville, Virginia, rally.
“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,” the group said on its Facebook page.