Hours after thousands of people marched against racism and hate in Boston Saturday, the last diehards lingered well after the majority of protesters had left.
At about 5:12 p.m., about 100 to 150 protesters, one waving a black flag with an antifa emblem on it, had crowded onto Washington Street near Downtown Crossing. Some faced off with police.
Some were maced, and the crowd ran when it was deployed. Officers yelled “move back” and used their bicycles to block the street.
Some protesters earlier chanted “Black Lives Matter” and while others tried arguing with police. A group of protesters had also faced a line of a few dozen State Police officers wearing riot gear.
At 5:41 they retreated back to the Common, where conservative activists held a Free Speech rally that drew a few dozen participants.
Just after 6 p.m, all but a handful of protesters had dispersed. There were no arrests, police said.
William Gross, Superintendent-in-Chief of the Boston Police, praised a large group of protesters gathered at the corner of Washington Street and Temple Place.
“Is anything broken? Is anything stolen? Is anything burning? Then you did it the right way,” Gross told the crowd just after 6 p.m.
Among those in the crowd who spoke to Gross was Bruno Desima, 18 of Peabody.
He came to protest the Boston Common rally, and throughout the day, he said it appeared that police and protesters were on opposite sides. He credited Gross with helping to calm the crowd late Saturday afternoon.
“Being able to walk up and tell a cop how you feel, and being able to interact with police, that’s my first time doing that,” he said.
Gross, standing near the Expressions store, got into an animated discussion with a group of protesters, in which he praised their conduct after the conservative groups arrived at Boston Common.
“Unanimously, we told people with hatred that this is not happening in Boston,” Gross told protesters.
He tried to connect protesters with the police officers who had a few minutes earlier faced off against protesters, suggesting both sides had common cause.
“Once we have a dialogue, you see that we’re on the same page,” said Gross.
Gross was shaking hands with some protesters and taking photos with others.
“You deserve it. All of that that was negative, you turned it into a positive,” said Gross.
Of the conservative groups who were at the Common: “You ran them out of town.”
Akilah Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. John Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.