Boston, UNITED STATES | AFP | Thousands of anti-racism demonstrators flooded the streets of Boston Saturday, dwarfing a gathering of white nationalists in the city and triggering scuffles with police but avoiding the serious violence that marred a similar event a week earlier in Virginia.
A so-called “free speech” rally by far-right groups had been scheduled to run until 2 pm (1800 GMT), but a half-hour before that police escorted its participants — whose numbers appeared to be in the dozens — to safety past a throng of anti-racism protesters.
Officials estimated turnout of about 40,000 demonstrators. Authorities said there were 27 arrests, mostly for assault and battery against the police, and disorderly conduct.
Aerial photos showed counter-protesters filling one of Boston’s main streets for several blocks, in a huge outpouring of anti-racist sentiment in this strongly Democratic northeastern city.
While Boston saw no repeat of the violence that erupted last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, isolated scuffles between police and protesters prompted President Donald Trump to weigh in, with a tweet intoning against the “many anti-police agitators in Boston.”
But as protesters began departing central Boston without major incident later Saturday, he followed up with a more positive tone.
“I want to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate,” he tweeted.
“Our country will soon come together as one!”
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans told a press conference that while there were people “who came here to cause problems,” authorities were able to maintain order and keep the two sides apart. He credited a unit specially trained for crowd control.
“I thought they did a good job of moving that crowd,” Evans said. “Sometimes it doesn’t look pretty, but that’s what they’re trained for.”
The demonstration was held at a time of anguished national debate over racial relations, which was fanned when Trump defended some participants in last week’s white nationalist and neo-Nazi rally in Virginia as “very fine people.”
Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is Jewish, tweeted Saturday night: “It was beautiful to see thousands of people across the USA come together today to peacefully denounce bigotry, racism & anti-Semitism. We must continue to come together, united as Americans!”
1:2 It was beautiful to see thousands of people across the U.S.A come together today to peacefully denounce bigotry, racism & anti-semitism.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) August 20, 2017