“If you’re black, if you’re brown, if you’re a queer, if you’re a woman, we know what it’s like to be alone, and today we’re saying you don’t have to walk alone.” These were the words of a counter-protester who was joined by approximately forty thousand others in a march through downtown Boston last Saturday to upstage the ongoing self-described free speech rally organized by right-wing activists. The rally had many controversial speakers such as Joe Biggs, a former writer at the right-wing conspiracy website InfoWars, and right-wing nationalist Kyle Chapman. This was a week after the violent and racist Charlottesville protest claimed three lives.
Although some violence did break out, the protest was deemed largely peaceful compared to the bloody clashes in Charlottesville. According to police commissioner William Evans, “ninety-nine point nine percent of people who were here were here for the right reasons.” ABC News also reported that organizers denounced the white supremacist message and violence of Charlottesville ahead of the rally and said their event would be peaceful. According to Evans, the Boston event ended with zero casualties and merely 33 arrests.
“Today, Boston stood for peace and love, not bigotry and hate. We should work to bring people together, not apart” tweeted Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in response to the day’s events. President Trump also chimed in and applauded the protesters who spoke out against bigotry and hate. “Our country will soon come together as one!” Trump wrote. This is in stark contrast to Trump’s controversial response to the violence in Charlottesville where he failed to condemn the violent attacks by white supremacists against counter-protesters.
The peaceful Boston protest is proof that activism can be done without violence. Regardless of how righteous a cause may be, parties should not resort to violence as it will only serve to spread more hate and bloodshed. Leaders and international organizations should continue to condemn racism through non-coercive measures.
Boston has a long history of racism dating back to the 19th century when immigrants were discriminated by the wealthy, educated, elite members of the Boston society. Traces of racism exists till today, evident in the racial slurs made by Red Sox Fans just last year. Beyond Boston, racism remains prevalent throughout the United States and the rest of the world. In response to the outbreak of violence in Charlottesville, U.N. Human Rights office said that the events were “the latest example of an increase in racial discrimination in the US.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2015, over 700 hate groups are active in the United States, including neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Outside the United States, racism exists even in some of the most developed countries such as the United Kingdom and Japan. It is evident that we are a long way from the eradication of racism.
“Wherever there is hate, we want to counter it with love,” said protesters who were interviewed by WGBH reporter Philip Martin. To counter racism, we cannot and must not fight hate with more hate.