Thousands of counter-protest groups fled the streets of Boston on Saturday to stand up to a group of right-wing protesters — a week after the tumultuous and deadly “Unite the Right”‘ rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia

The Boston Free Speech Coalition group took to Boston Common for the “Boston Free Speech Rally” — a gathering for those “willing to peaceably engage in open dialogue about the threats to, and importance of, free speech and civil liberties.”

Their group was met with by counter-protest groups including ANSWER Coalition Boston and the local chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM) — who had announced plans to oppose the rally not long after it was organized in late July, NBC News reported.

In a post on Facebook, the Free Speech Movement — who identify as a mix of “libertarians, progressives, conservatives, and independents”— explained they are “dedicated to peaceful rallies” and are “in no way affiliated with the Charlottesville rally.”

“While we maintain that every individual is entitled to their freedom of speech and defend that basic human right, we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry. We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence. We denounce the actions, activities, and tactics of the so-called Antifa movement. We denounce the normalization of political violence,” they wrote.

Saturday’s expected attendance by protesters grew substantially in the wake of the Aug. 12 rally by white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia that left Heather Heyer, 32, dead after a driver rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, according to The New York Times.

Authorities said two state troopers were also killed in a helicopter crash as they were responding to the rally. At least 26 people were taken to a local hospital from the rally and counter-protests, the Northwest Herald reported.

The “Unite the Right” rally was organized to protest the removal of a statute of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

 

President Donald Trump had faced widespread criticism for his delayed response in condemning racists and hate groups by name. Though he condemned the hate groups by name on Monday — including “KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” — the 71-year-old backtracked later in a news conference saying that “bigotry and hatred” was coming from “many sides” and that “both sides” were to blame — including the counter-protesters.

“There are two sides to a story,” Trump said on Tuesday during a spar with reporters at a infrastructure event.

“There were a lot of bad people in the other group too,” he said in reference to the counter-protesters. He also said there were “very fine people” on both sides of the protest.

Trump also condemned the removal of memorials dedicated to Confederate leaders in the Civil War on Twitter Thursday.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump wrote. “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”

“Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” the president continued.

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Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer spoke out on CNN’s AC360 Friday, reversing his stance again moving the Robert E. Lee statue out of a city park and asking for its immediate removal.

“I think everything changed last weekend,” Signer told host Anderson Cooper. “I think that was one of those moments in the nation’s history where everything turns.”

“All of a sudden these statues of Civil War generals installed in the Jim Crow era, they became touchstones of terror — the twisted totems that people are clearly drawn to, trying to create a whole architecture of intimidation and hatred around them that was visited around our town, “he added. “It was evil.”

Also on Friday, Trump fired White House Chief StrategistSteve Bannon amid pressure to axe the former Breitbart News chairman because of Bannon’s ties with the White Nationalist movement.


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