Police, protesters commended for Saturday’s show of peace

Protestors stood in front of police line during a confrontation on Washington Street Saturday.
Protestors stood in front of police line during a confrontation on Washington Street Saturday.

Four men with weapons were among 33 people arrested by Boston police during Saturday’s “Boston Free Speech” rally and counterprotest on Boston Common, police said Sunday.

The charges included disturbing a public assembly, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest, according to Boston police.

Those arrested will be in court over the next three days with arraignments scheduled to begin Monday morning at Boston Municipal Court and then continue into Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Suffolk District Attorney spokesman Jake Wark.


Mayor Martin J. Walsh lauded Police Commissioner William B. Evans’s strategy for keeping peace in the city Saturday and police conduct during the rally in a Sunday morning appearance on WCVB-TV’s “On the Record.” Walsh also said he got a call from General John F. Kelly, the newly appointed White House chief of staff, commending Boston and city officials on efforts to dampen threats of violence.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“He said, ‘very proud of what’s going on.’ He’s a Boston native, and he said, ‘Very proud of how you’re handling it,’ ” Walsh said on WCVB. “It was a nice call.

Kelly, who grew up in Brighton and is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Boston, met with Walsh in the mayor’s office a month before Kelly’s appointment as chief of staff, Walsh said.

More than 40,000 people converged Saturday on Boston Common to protest the “free speech” rally that drew only a handful of people. Boston city officials had been preparing for a clash of groups that some feared could escalate to the level of hatred and violence on display in Charlottesville, Va., a week ago.

Among those arrested Saturday was Nathan Mizrahi, 38, of Norwich, N.Y., who was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, police said.


Police said two men — Roberto Bonila, 20, of Chelsea, and Shaun Petty, 33, of Taunton — were each found with a knife, and charged with assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. Petty was also charged with assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest, police said. Shawn Vieira, 25, of Boston, was also found with a knife and charged with unlawfully carrying a dangerous weapon, as well as disturbing the peace, police said.

The youngest person arrested was a 15-year-old from Cambridge, who police said was charged with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and disorderly conduct.

Four men from out of state, including Mizrahi, were among those arrested. A 36-year-old man from Vermont and a 25-year-old man from Eugene, Ore., were each charged with disturbing a public assembly, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct, police said.

And a 46-year-old from Miami was charged with drinking alcohol in public, police said.

During his Sunday morning appearance on WCVB-TV, Walsh also strongly countered a tweet sent by President Trump Saturday saying there were “anti-police agitators in Boston” and that Boston police looked “tough and smart.”


“That wasn’t our job yesterday,” Walsh said. “We weren’t meaning to be tough and smart. We were out there to make sure we protected people and made sure people had the opportunity to be able to come and express themselves.”

Walsh said there were about 40,000 people on the Common “to pass a message along of hope and unity and love.” But, he said, “There was about 200 people in that crowd that were there to start trouble.”

Some protesters threw rocks and urine-filled bottles at officers, he said, but they were the minority.

Protesters had gathered at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury around 10 a.m. to march through Boston, flooding streets and surrounding the near-empty area that was cordoned off and reserved for the “free speech” rally.

“The message was beautiful quite honestly, and the signs were great,” Walsh said. “There were people there that were supporting Black Lives Matter, there were people there supporting [efforts against] anti-Semitism, there were people there against white supremacy and everyone was on the same page.”

The protest in Boston became a topic of discussion throughout the country during the weekend.

“Couldn’t be more proud of #Boston today. Peaceful, moral, resistant. That is our city and Commonweath. TY, @bostonpolice, for your respect,” Senator Ed Markey tweeted Saturday.

“John Winthrop’s vision of Boston as the ‘City upon a hill’ is alive. Today in the Common, the Alt Right, racism and bigotry are defeated,” said former White House counsel for the Bush administration, Richard Painter.

Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo, who last week led a protest outside Trump Tower, tweeted, “The good guys showed them how to do it in Boston today. No need for sticks clubs, shields, and guns. 1000x more powerful with Peace. #noNazis.”

Though many touted the 40,000-to-dozens ratio of the protesters to the “free speech” rally attendees as a victorious upstaging, some on social media claimed that confused protesters misunderstood the rally’s message and shouted down aligning viewpoints of love and freedom.

Shiva Ayyadurai, a candidate vying for Elizabeth Warren’s Senate seat, tweeted videos and excerpts of speeches he said were delivered during the “free speech” rally.

“They have no idea who you or we are, do they?” Ayyadurai asked in a video of his speech at the rally. “They don’t know anything about us.”

On Sunday, the signs, the shouting, and the police in riot gear were gone from the Common. The barricades and public works vehicles — intended to keep the competing groups separate and minimize the risk of vehicle-related incidents — had been removed from pathways.

Brightly colored signs with anti-fascist, anti-Trump, and pro-peace messages had been taped up on construction fencing hours after the rally. They were removed Saturday evening, leaving behind only torn corners and shreds of posterboard in the chain-link fence.

On Sunday afternoon, couples and families lolled on picnic blankets spread across the grass of the Common or gathered in circles with toddlers in strollers and dogs on leashes.

Near the Parkman Bandstand, where Saturday’s “free speech” rally took place, Boston Latin School students Eman Umaiya and Laura Clabaugh, both 17, drew on an asphalt pathway with colored chalk purchased at a nearby pharmacy.

Kneeling on the pavement, Umaiya, of Roxbury, sketched the head and shoulders of a woman with blue skin and short, thick hair yet to be colored in.

“It’s supposed to be a black woman, and it’s supposed to show power and courage,” she explained. “Usually women are discouraged from wearing their hair natural, and I wanted to show that black is beautiful.”

Umaiya said she had not been at Saturday’s rally, but her sister attended, and she watched the action through her sister’s Snapchat videos.

Clabaugh, of Charlestown, said she had wanted to take part in Saturday’s counterprotest, but her parents didn’t let her, so she also followed the action through social media.

“The fact that the counterprotest was bigger than the [‘free speech’ rally], I think, said a lot about the kind of people that live in Boston,” she said.

Nearby, at a company picnic, Roslindale resident Arlene Smith also had praise for the response to the conservative rally, which she had watched for hours on television.

“I thought it was fantastic, fantastic,” said Smith, 64. “It was peaceful. It was powerful. . . . I was so moved by it. There were so many kinds of people in the crowd: black, white, Asian, the clergy.”

Smith also praised the police response, which mostly avoided using force against protesters, though she said recent events have made her concerned about civil rights protections for people of color and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

“I think it really is a scary time in America,” she said. “It seems like we’re going backward.”

Sara Salinas can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @saracsalinas. John Hilliard can be reached at Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.