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Organizers of free speech rally planned for next month will go ahead despite denial of permit

The Aug. 19 rally on Boston Common drew a small crowd.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/File

The organizers of a controversial free speech rally planned for Boston Common next month say they will move forward with the event despite being denied a permit by city officials over concerns it would interfere with a family-friendly 5K road race scheduled for the same day.

“We have a right to peaceably assemble under the 1st amendment of the Constitution and we will exercise that right,” said the group, called Resist Marxism, in a statement sent out Friday about the event planned for Nov. 18.

The group planned the event after an August free speech rally on the Common was overwhelmed by counterprotesters, who accused the organizers of providing a platform for racists. That rally occurred just a week after a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white nationalists clashed with counterprotesters, one of whom was killed.


Organizers of the August event in Boston had adamantly denied they were promoting a bigoted message, and Resist Marxism makes the same argument about  its planned November gathering. The Resist Marxism website says the organizers of the August rally are a co-sponsor of the November event.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Saturday that the only reason the November event was denied a permit was because Camp Harbor View, which serves at-risk youth in Boston every summer, had been issued a permit back in March for the same day, to hold a large fund-raiser with a family walk and run on the Common.

The city offered the Resist Marxism group a permit for Nov. 19, instead.

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department,which is in charge of permitting, sent the group a letter denying the permit on Thursday.

The 5k will involve street closures, large tents, moving vehicles and hundreds of families, officials said, which makes another large event incompatible.

“They claim to have a positive message and not be a hateful group,” said Walsh of Resist Marxism. “Well if they are, let’s see if they can move it one day so Camp Harbor View can have the Common without interference.”


But in their press release, Resist Marxism organizers accused the city of dragging its feet on making a decision regarding the permit, and said that they had been forced to make plans without knowing whether it would be granted. By the time they were told the permit would be issued for the 19th rather than the 18th, the release said, flight and hotel arrangements had already been made and it was too late to cancel.

The group did not respond to a request for additional comment Saturday. The Resist Marxism website says the event, called “Rally for the Republic,” will “defend the republic and reclaim free speech in Boston.”

Speakers listed include Kyle Chapman, who gained notoriety this year after a video went viral of him smashing a wooden post over the head of an antifascist protester at a march for President Trump in Berkeley, Calif. Chapman had been scheduled to speak at the August rally in Boston until he pulled out.

Walsh said the city will not stop the rally from going forward on Nov. 18 despite its lack of permit, but organizers will not be able to bring sound amplification.

The Boston Police Department, which is not involved with permitting, will prepare for the rally as it does for any event, whether permitted or not, officials said.

“Our goal is to maintain safety and security for the public while those who may be in attendance at the rally demonstrate for their cause,” said Commissioner William B. Evans in a statement. “We encourage everyone who is gathering on the Common on that day to behave civilly and respectfully, and we remind the public that acts of vandalism, violence, and other illegal activity will not be tolerated.”


Meghan E. Irons of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story mischaracterized Kyle Chapman’s previous rally participation. According to his Twitter account, he did not participate in an August rally in Charlottesville, Va.