Dozens of people attempted to attend a gun rights rally Friday morning in Lexington despite an emergency moratorium the town placed on gatherings on the Battle Green after the Boston Marathon bombings this week.
Police Chief Mark Corr said several groups, ranging in size from about 10 to as many as 80 people, began arriving around 9:30 a.m. Friday for a Second Amendment rally that had at one time been issued a permit for Lexington’s historic downtown common.
But Corr said that after the Marathon bombings Monday and based in part on the advice of federal authorities investigating the attack, the town’s Board of Selectmen held an emergency meeting Tuesday to temporarily suspend all permits for the Battle Green. Corr said the town consulted federal authorities and State Police, and they also agreed that postponing the rally would be a good decision.
When dozens of people came to Lexington anyway for the rally Friday, his officers would not let them gather on the green, Corr said. The decision was reinforced by the manhunt for the Marathon bombing suspects in Watertown and Cambridge that unfolded from late Thursday until Friday evening.
“In light of what was happening in the Boston area, I don’t know how we could not have made that choice,” Corr said.
Corr said police did allow the rally goers to briefly assemble on the lawn in front of the Lexington Visitor Center and briefly say their piece before moving on.
Some of the participants came by motorcycle and were headed to other gun rights rallies Friday, Corr said.
The rally permit had been granted to Stephen Redfern, who Corr said is affiliated with Gun Rights Across America.
Before the rally permit was suspended, Corr said, other people had been planning to hold a counterprotest calling for tighter gun-control measures.
Several people who came for the rally were still lingering near the Battle Green shortly after noon Friday.
Walter Reddy, 61, of Weston, Conn., wore a tricorner hat and other Colonial-era attire for the rally, which he said was in support of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Reddy said he thinks citizen militias need to be revitalized and restored in several states.
Will Harvey, 40, of Andover said he came to Lexington to show his support for the Constitution, call for the country to get back to its original values, and urge people to turn off their televisions and care for the people in their communities.
Speaking together to a reporter, Reddy said there is no excuse for the attack in Boston on Monday, while Harvey said that does not mean the rally in Lexington should be canceled.
“When there is some sort of event, are we supposed to put our lives on hold?” Harvey said.
Corr said he also considered that the Boston Marathon bombings occurred on the Patriots Day holiday, when thousands of people visited Lexington to remember the first battle of the American Revolutionary War.
He said authorities were also wary of having a gun rights rally on April 19, which is the anniversary of the government siege in Waco, Texas, and the Oklahoma City bombing in the 1990s.
Selectman Norm Cohen said the board’s emergency vote to place a moratorium on all rally permits for the Battle Green was done completely in the interest of public safety.
Cohen said the gun rights supporters can apply for another permit once the moratorium is lifted.