Metro

Organizer of Common ‘free speech’ rally sues Mayor Marty Walsh for slander

The crowd at the “free speech” rally (above) on the Boston Common was dwarfed by thousands who participated in a counterprotest.
Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/File
The crowd at the “free speech” rally (above) on the Boston Common was dwarfed by thousands who participated in a counterprotest.

An organizer of August’s controversial Boston Free Speech Rally is suing Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh for slander, saying the mayor repeatedly mischaracterized the event’s speakers as “white supremacists,” “hate group members,” and “neo-Nazis,” and suggesting that such comments caused him to lose his job.

Brandon Navom, a Lowell software engineer who grew up in North Adams, said in his complaint that he lost his software consulting job because of Walsh’s “defamatory comments.”

In the complaint, filed Monday in Berkshire Superior Court, Navom said he was subjected to an “Internet hate mob” that “tracked me down and harassed my employer until they let me go simply because my name was on the list of speakers — injuries that I suffered because of Mayor Marty Walsh’s defamatory comments.”

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The mayor’s office declined to comment on the case Tuesday night.

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After the bloodshed in Charlottesville, Va., local authorities feared the Boston rally would draw white supremacists.

The Aug. 19 rally appeared to draw 50 people, at most, while counterprotests drew an estimated 40,000.

Free speech rally organizers said last month they are planning another local demonstration for November.

Novam said Tuesday that he was let go from his job the day after the Charlottesville rally, which was the Sunday before the free speech rally in Boston. He said he has yet to find full-time employment.

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“This was a horrible ordeal that I could never have imagined I’d ever have to go through,” Navom said during a phone interview.

Navom ultimately decided not to join the free speech rally, which occurred at the Boston Common’s Parkman Bandstand.

The suit seeks $100 million in total damages: $50 million in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages.

“How much would you have to be paid to have people think you are a white supremacist?” asked his attorney, Rinaldo Del Gallo.

Del Gallo said he filed the suit in Berkshire Superior Court because he thought there was an more likely chance of receiving a fair trial in western Massachusetts, far removed from Walsh’s political base.

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“I believe the mayor was purposefully lying and if he wasn’t lying, he was grotesquely incompetent, “ Del Gallo said in a statement. “But at the very best the mayor’s comments represents a wanton, callous and reckless disregard for the truth.”

Del Gallo said he was invited to speak at the August rally, but did not address the crowd.

He said he went through his own evaluation regarding the speakers and organizers of the event.

“I was very quickly able to determine that these people were not a bunch of white supremacists,” Del Gallo said during a phone interview Tuesday.

Walsh, the complaint asserts, made malicious comments “for political gain” in the run-up to the rally on the Common.

“Mayor Marty Walsh’s libelous statements were large and substantial statements mischaracterizing the organizers, speakers, and invited attendees as a white supremacist, haters or members of hate groups — these were not ‘minor inaccuracies,’” states the complaint.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Navom ran for City Council in Lowell in 2013, but was eliminated during a preliminary election after finishing 21st out of 22 candidates. Navom, according to the ADL, attended the Libertarian Party’s national convention in 2016 and was a Ron Paul delegate during the 2012 presidential campaign.

According to the ADL, Navom on his Facebook page has propagated “the conspiracy theory that [Democratic National Committee] staffer Seth Rich was murdered for political reasons.”

Thousands of counterprotesters took to the streets on Aug. 19, opposing the “free speech” rally.
Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/File
Thousands of counterprotesters took to the streets on Aug. 19, opposing the “free speech” rally.

Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.