Nestor Ramos

So you want to hold a ‘free speech’ rally on Boston Common

Boston, MA- August 19, 2017: “Boston Free Speech” rally at the Boston Common, Boston, MA on August 19, 2017. Thousands of protesters are expected to flood downtown Boston Saturday, with the “Boston Free Speech” rally on Boston Common likely surrounded by several different counter-actions. (CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF) section: metro reporter:
Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
The “free speech” rally on Boston Common in August drew about 50 people to the bandstand and tens of thousands of couter-protesters.

The organizers of last month’s free speech rally say they’re planning another get-together for the fall. So here, free of charge, is a draft of a proposed new pamphlet for distribution at the City Hall permitting office...

So You Want To Hold A Free Speech Rally: A Guide From The City Of Boston

Greetings, and thank you for venturing off of your internet message board. We’re excited that you’ve chosen Boston for your event!

Our city has been home to some of the great gatherings in American history: The Boston Tea Party. Paul Revere’s Ride. Game Four of the 2004 American League Championship Series. Yours is probably not going to be one of those. But while your sad collection of hollow-eyed young men blinking into the unfamiliar light of the midday sun probably won’t join that august company, you’re welcome to give it the old college Libertarian try.


Here are a few things to think about if you want to make your Free Speech Rally a snowflake-smashing success:


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Boston Common is a wonderful and historic place to gather, and has hosted an unimaginably wide variety of events over the centuries. Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II have given speeches there. And in 2006, a pumpkin festival on the Common set a world record for most jack o’lanterns lit in one place. Your thing is more like the pumpkin festival, as both involve nonsensical assemblies of empty-headed ghouls.

But the Common is also quite sprawling, and its acreage may be better suited to more popular events, such as parties for people and their cats. If your Free Speech Rally is as well attended as the last one, you might consider moving it somewhere nearby. P.F. Chang’s is just a block off Boston Common. You may not even need a reservation for a party that size. Plus: Lettuce wraps!


Hey, it’s your show: Invite whoever you want and say whatever you want. That’s what free speech is all about. But maybe consider inviting someone with something interesting to say? OK, let’s be serious: Nobody interesting is going to speak. Instead, you might find that more than a few people you’ve never heard of are surprisingly eager to say outrageous things for no clear purpose other than the attention they receive. It’s almost as if people with no discernible talent are hoping to get famous. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Once you’ve accumulated a handful of white nationalist internet celebrities, fringe political candidates, and amateur comedians, you’re ready to promote your event to a wide audience of conspiracy theorists and men’s rights activists! Make sure everyone knows that the rally is about free speech, and the fact that all the speakers are obvious right-wing extremists is merely coincidental.



It can be hard to carry on inane arguments over the dull roar of 40,000 marching in opposition to your dumb event. After all, is speech really free if nobody is paying attention to what you’re saying? (Hint: yes.) Consider setting up a small sound system or, failing that, passing around a bullhorn and pretending to be a Midwestern governor visiting a tornado-ravaged town.

But if plugging in a sound system and/or finding batteries for your bullhorn prove too challenging, consider letting an earnest, not-at-all sarcastic member of the media inside the police barricade to dutifully transcribe your very important and not-at-all disingenuous utterances.


It seems unfair: You paid for the permit, but all of a sudden you’re outnumbered 1,000-to-1 and nobody can even hear what you’re saying about Benghazi or whatever. Those issues are the subject of another city pamphlet. You can find it right here.

Nestor Ramos can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @NestorARamos.