Thousands turn out in Boston to march against hate speech

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Counterprotesters holds signs at a "Free Speech" rally by conservative activists on Boston Common, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Boston. Thousands of leftist counterprotesters marched through downtown Boston on Saturday, chanting anti-Nazi slogans and waving signs condemning white nationalism ahead of a rally being staged by conservative activists a week after a Virginia demonstration turned deadly. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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A counterprotester, left, confronts a professed supporter of President Donald Trump at a "Free Speech" rally by conservative activists on Boston Common, on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Boston. Thousands of leftist counterprotesters marched through downtown Boston on Saturday, chanting anti-Nazi slogans and waving signs condemning white nationalism ahead of a rally being staged by conservative activists a week after a Virginia demonstration turned deadly. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Updated 19 August 2017

Thousands turn out in Boston to march against hate speech

BOSTON, US: Thousands of people took to the streets of Boston on Saturday to protest hate speech a week after a woman was killed at a Virginia white-supremacist demonstration, and their shouts drowned out the “Free Speech” rally that sparked their march.
Organizers of the rally had invited several far-right speakers who were confined to a small pen that police set up in the historic Boston Common park to keep the two sides separate. The city largely avoided a repeat of last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where there were bloody street battles and one woman was killed.
The rally never numbered more than a few dozen people, and its speakers could not be heard over the shouts of those protesting it and due to the wide security cordon between the two sides.
Protesters surrounded people leaving the rally, shouting “shame” at them and occasionally throwing plastic water bottles. Police escorted several rally participants through the crowds, sometimes struggling against protesters who tried to stop them.
A Reuters photographer saw multiple marchers arrested.
Two male rally participants wearing Trump’s red “Make America Great Again” campaign hats attempted to enter penned-in protest area. They were swarmed by black-clad protesters, some with their faces covered, as the crowd screamed “go home” and “no hate” at them.
“They heard our message loud and clear: Boston will not tolerate hate,” said Owen Toney, a 58-year-old community activist who attended the anti-racism protest. “I think they’ll think again about coming here.”
Some 500 police officers had placed barricades, including large white dump trucks, to prevent vehicles from entering the park, the nation’s oldest.
Last weekend’s clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one woman was killed in a car rampage after bloody street battles, ratcheted up racial tensions already inflamed by white supremacist groups marching more openly in rallies across the United States.
White nationalists had converged in the Southern university city to defend a statue of Robert E. Lee, who led the pro-slavery Confederacy’s army during the Civil War, which ended in 1865.
A growing number of US political leaders have called for the removal of statues honoring the Confederacy, with civil rights activists charging that they promote racism. Advocates of the statues contend they are a reminder of their heritage.
Duke University removed a statue of Lee from the entrance of a chapel on its Durham, North Carolina campus, officials said on Saturday.
Organizers of Saturday’s rally in Boston have denounced the white supremacist message and violence of Charlottesville and said their event would be peaceful.
“The point of this is to have political speech from across the spectrum, conservative, libertarian, centrist,” said Chris Hood, an 18-year-old Boston resident who stood among a crowd of a few dozen people who joined the Free Speech rally. “This is not about Nazis. If there were Nazis here, I’d be protesting against them.”
The violence in Charlottesville triggered the biggest domestic crisis yet for US President Donald Trump, who provoked ire across the political spectrum for not immediately condemning white nationalists and for praising “very fine people” on both sides of the fight.
Beyond the Boston rally and march, protests are also expected on Saturday in Texas, with the Houston chapter of Black Lives Matter holding a rally to remove a “Spirit of the Confederacy” monument from a park and civil rights activists in Dallas planning a rally against white supremacy.

Protesters reject plea
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh had asked protesters to avoid Boston Common, saying their presence would draw more attention to the far-right activists. He joined the crowd of thousands assembling in Boston’s historically black Roxbury neighborhood early on Saturday.
“These signs and the message so far this morning is all about love and peace,” Walsh told reporters. “That’s a good message.”
Monica Cannon, an organizer of the “Fight White Supremacy” march, said it was a necessary move.
“Ignoring a problem has never solved it,” Cannon said in a phone interview. “We cannot continue to ignore racism.”
The Free Speech rally’s scheduled speakers included Kyle Chapman, a California activist who was arrested at a Berkeley rally earlier this year that turned violent, and Joe Biggs, formerly of the right-wing conspiracy site Infowars. It was not immediately clear if either ended up speaking.
Antonio Vargas, a 20-year-old student at Gordon College, joined the protest march.
“I believe in equality,” Vargas said. “I believe race shouldn’t define the pattern of your life or the result of your life.
“There also is a time to stand up and not be silent.”


Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.