Business & Tech

Speakers at ‘free speech’ rally dropping out

Gavin McInnes (center) was scheduled to speak at Saturday’s planned free speech rally on Boston Common. On Monday, he said he wasn’t coming.

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/File 2017

Gavin McInnes (center) was scheduled to speak at Saturday’s planned free speech rally on Boston Common. On Monday, he said he wasn’t coming.

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A Boston Free Speech Rally poster on Facebook.

Three headliners scheduled to speak at a far-right rally in Boston on Saturday backed out Monday, casting doubt on the event amid strong opposition by city officials worried about a repeat of the bloodshed in Charlottesville.

Augustus Invictus, an Orlando activist who took part in the Charlottesville rally, said organizers of Boston’s rally texted him on Monday and said it was necessary to cancel the event “from a PR standpoint,” after the violence in Virginia.

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Invictus, who attracted support from white supremacists when he ran for the US Senate as a Libertarian in Florida in 2016, said organizers indicated they were also worried about statements he has made espousing support for a “second American civil war.”

“I’m upset that my appearance was canceled, and I’m upset the rally was canceled because, to me, it is pure capitulation to the mob of leftists,” Invictus told the Globe Monday.

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Another planned headliner, Gavin McInnes, said he was also backing out. McInnes, who heads a group of self-proclaimed “Western chauvinists” called the Proud Boys, accused Mayor Martin J. Walsh and city officials of trying to incite a riot to discredit the assortment of right-wing activists who planned to rally in Boston.

“It’s a trap!” McInnes said in a post on his Twitter feed. And in an e-mail to the Globe, he added: “I’m out.”

A third speaker, Casssandra Fairbanks, also said she was going to cancel. “I’m not going to speak at the Boston free speech rally,” she tweeted. “The threats keep escalating and people are unhinged rn,” she wrote, using internet shorthand for “right now.”

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A fourth speaker, Joe Biggs, who lives in Austin, Texas, said he was still planning to travel to Boston for the rally, despite the cancellations.

“If 10,000 lefties murder me, then so be it,” he said in an interview.

A former US Army staff sergeant, Biggs worked until recently for Infowars, a website founded by Alex Jones, the notorious conspiracy theorist. Biggs was among those promoting the Pizzagate conspiracy theory that claimed a pedophile ring with links to Hillary Clinton was operating out of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.

In an interview, Biggs insisted the rally in Boston is designed to promote free speech — not hate or violence. “These events are not violent in nature at all but people will defend themselves if provoked and that’s what happened in Charlottesville,” he said.

He disavowed any support for racists, saying, “My wife is Guyanese. I have a mixed baby. I’m the furthest thing from a [expletive] Nazi.”

But in a video posted on his Twitter feed on Saturday, he talked positively about the Charlottesville rally. “There’s nothing wrong with white people wanting to preserve their race,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with white people bring proud of being white.”

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