Speaker list for ‘free speech’ rally includes right-wing extremists
Some speakers have dropped out of the “Boston Free Speech” rally planned for Saturday on the Common, but at least two right-wing extremists, including a Clinton conspiracy theorist and a founder of a group dubbed by hate watchdogs as an “Alt-Right Fight Club,” will still address the crowd at the event, which expected to draw counterprotesters and a heavy police presence.
The rally organizers said early Thursday in a Facebook post that the four “headliners” will be Kyle Chapman, Joe Biggs, US Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai, and congressional candidate Samson Racioppi.
“So it’s been a little tumultuous running up to the 19th. We’ve attracted much love from the ‘Alt Left’ aka ‘Antifa’ and their trolly bits,” the post said. “We apologize for the upheaval of our speaker list.”
Of the four speakers, Chapman and Biggs appeared likely to draw the most ire.
Chapman gained notoriety earlier this year after a video went viral of him smashing a wooden post over the head of an anti-fascist protester at a march for President Trump in Berkeley, Calif.
Chapman, who became known on the Internet as “Based Stickman,” then started a group called the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a “New Alt-Right Fight Club ready for street violence.”
The Alt Knights are linked to another extremist group, the Proud Boys. According to the SPLC, Chapman “says his new militant, highly-masculine group will be the ‘tactical defensive arm’ of the Proud Boys, another group that shows up at pro-Trump rallies looking to rumble with counter-protesters.”
The Proud Boys were founded by Gavin McInnes, who was originally scheduled as a speaker at Saturday’s rally but dropped out earlier this week.
Biggs, a former US Army staff sergeant, 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.
The conspiracy theory almost went horribly wrong when a man showed up at the pizzeria and fired a miltiary-assault-style rifle. He was later sentenced to four years in prison.
Biggs previously told the Globe that Saturday’s rally 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 was referring to the rally in Virginia that turned deadly when white supremacists and neo-Nazi demonstrators clashed with counterprotesters, and one white supremacist allegedly plowed his vehicle into Heather Heyer, killing the young woman who was part of the counterprotest.
Tensions have been high in the leadup to the planned rally in Boston, with Mayor Martin J. Walsh telling hate groups that the city “does not want you here.” City officials have granted the organizers a permit allowing them to rally on the Common from noon to 2 p.m., with restrictions on objects that attendees can bring into the area.
Among the banned items for demonstrators on both sides: bats, sticks, and backpacks. Walsh said police will have a “zero-tolerance policy.”
Walsh is not the only political leader to condemn bigotry ahead of the rally.
During an ornate State House ceremony on Thursday, Governor Charlie Baker was joined by a number of elected officials including Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg in submitting an official resolution decrying white nationalism in the wake of the Charlottesville violence.
The officials took turns reading portions of the resolution, including one excerpt read by Baker that said the state “strongly” denounces the “bigoted ideologies promoted by white nationalists.”
Meanwhile, the rally organizers continue to insist that the event is open to a range of political views and not a forum for hate groups.
“We are STILL offering our platform for ‘left’ groups to join us and have open slots for speakers if any ‘left’ groups would like to furnish some,” the Facebook posting said. “We will, of course, ask that speakers stick generally to the subject of Free Speech. We will not tolerate advocacy for hate against any ethnic/racial groups, as stated on our recent release.”
Ayyadurai, a Cambridge Republican who has staked out a populist stance in the early months of the GOP Senate primary in Massachusetts, recently told the Globe via e-mail that he was concerned Saturday’s rally could turn violent.
He added that racial strife is “manufactured and fueled by the Establishment to distract from the economic problems that they have caused and profit from. . . . The Establishment creates and funds groups like Antifa, KKK and Black Lives Matter with the aim of dividing everyday poor black and white Americans.”
Racioppi, the fourth speaker who is also running for Congress, is enrolled at Suffolk University and served as a Cavalry Scout in the US Army for three years, according to his campaign website.
“Speech is such an important thing to me,” a blog post says on his site. “It is the most important value a society can recognize for free people to stay that way.”
The site also includes a YouTube video of Racioppi speaking under a headline that says, “How drug legalization reduces addiction and overdose deaths.”