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Man accused of bringing gun to free speech rally on Boston Common arraigned in court

Organizers stood on the bandstand on Boston Common during a "Free Speech" rally staged by conservative activists in August.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press/File 2017

When two men wearing military vests found themselves surrounded by a crowd of angry counterprotesters at the “free speech” rally in August on Boston Common, police jumped in to keep the peace and escorted them to safety. Police then took the ballistics vests that the men were wearing and told them they could pick them up at the police station later, authorities said.

Police said they later found a loaded semiautomatic handgun inside one of the vests, and when Nathan Mizrahi showed up at the District A-1 police station to get his vest, he was placed under arrest for unlawful possession of a firearm, Suffolk prosecutors said at his arraignment Friday in Suffolk Superior Court.

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Mizrahi, 39, of Norwich, N.Y., disagrees with the prosecutor’s account of what happened at the rally. He pleaded not guilty to charges of carrying a firearm without a license, carrying a loaded firearm without a license, and possession of ammunition without a firearms identification card.

Mizrahi was among the 33 people arrested at the rally and counterprotest that took place on Boston Common on Aug. 19.

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney AlexaRae Wright explained in court that police encountered Mizrahi when officers noticed a large group of counterprotesters surrounding a few people. Concerned that a fight might break out, officers climbed over the fence and intervened, she said.

Wright said the two men who were surrounded were dressed in military-style camouflage outfits, ballistic vests, and backpacks.

“The counterprotesters had surrounded the two men and were screaming in their faces,” she said. “They would not let them move.” Officers told the two men they couldn’t enter the gated area wearing the ballistic vests and seized them, she said.

“During the inventory process, officers recovered a loaded firearm secreted inside the military-grade ballistics vest,” Wright said.

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Mizrahi’s attorney, Joseph B. Simons, said his client lives in upstate New York and holds a license to carry a gun in that state. Simons said Mizrahi never unholstered his gun or threatened anyone.

“He came here not to engage in violence, but to engage in a peaceful protest,” Simons said in an interview after the arraignment. “In fact, if you listen to the recitation of facts from the prosecution, it was the counterprotesters who were on the verge of violence against Mr. Mizrahi and his cohorts who were protesting.”

Soon after the arraignment was over, Mizrahi recorded a live video on Facebook in which he said the prosecutor’s portrayal of the events was “completely inaccurate.”

“It’s not even close to what actually happened,” Mizrahi said in the video. “There was nobody around us. We were not arguing with anybody.”

In the video, Mizrahi asked witnesses who were at the rally to come forward and provide affidavits of what they saw at the rally and his encounter with the police.

Mizrahi’s next court date is scheduled for Dec. 13, and his trial is scheduled for April 24.

A second rally is slated for Boston Common on Nov. 18 by a group calling itself “Resist Marxism.” The organization announced on its website that it will hold a “Rally for the Republic” whether or not the city issues a permit.


Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.