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In Boston, a novel fund-raising model to combat Saturday’s ‘free speech rally’

A local nonprofit has deployed a fund-raising tactic used to counter neo-Nazi groups in Germany ahead of Saturday’s controversial “Boston Free Speech” rally on the Common.

Union Capital Boston, a Jamaica Plain-based charity that fosters community engagement and advocates for equality, has launched an initiative to raise money for groups like Black Lives Matter and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

People can pledge a certain amount of money per rally attendee.

The more people who attend the free speech rally, the more money will be raised for groups that stand in opposition to the rally.

“It’s a win-win,” said Eric Leslie , a lead organizer for Union Capital Boston . “The more marchers that show, the more money is raised. The less marchers that show, the less hatred there is.”


Money raised will be split evenly among Black Lives Matter, Centro Presente, Council on American Islamic Relations, Life After Hate, New England Holocaust Memorial, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Showing Up for Racial Justice, said Leslie.

Leslie said his own group, Union Capital Boston, will not receive any of the money raised.

Within two hours of launching the initiative Thursday on the web site Pledgeit.org, the fund-raising drive had raised more than $5,000, he said.

The fund-raising model, said Leslie, is based on an anti-neo-Nazi strategy used in Germany. There, a small town that was once home to the burial site of Nazi leader Rudolf Hess was the site of an annual neo-Nazi pilgrimage that included a march through town, according to The Guardian.

Tired of the annual event, town residents launched a fund-raiser wherein donors would pay an amount of money for every meter of the neo-Nazi march. The money benefited an anti-extremist group. The Guardian reported that locals hung humorous signs along the route of the march, including one that read, “If only the Führer knew!”


Leslie said Boston police will provide his group with the number of attendees at Saturday’s rally. Counterprotesters, he said, will not be counted toward the fund-raising tally.

At least two right-wing extremists are scheduled to speak at the controversial free speech rally on Saturday. The event will come a week after a rally that drew white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., turned violent. A heavy police presence is expected on the Common on Saturday. A counterprotest to the rally is also expected.

Meghan E. Irons of Globe staff contributed to this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com