Who was at the Boston Free Speech rally?

a photo of Boston Free Speech protesters
Boston Free Speech protesters

So, this morning at brunch, my girlfriend and I watched live news coverage of the Boston Free Speech rally and its infinitely larger protest. The narrative seemed to be that the protesters were all liberal bleeding-heart types and that the rally attendees were a bunch of racist, Donald Trump supporting, alt-right white folk. But, a few hours later, Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) took to Periscope asking if anyone knew for sure that the Boston Free Speech group was actually there to promote racism. And, of the 1,000+ people watching his Periscope, no one (myself included) seemed to know.

This is me trying to answer that question. Now, I don’t actually know for certain who all showed up to this event. What I do know is the list of speakers the group published shortly before the event. Here is the annotated list.

List of Boston Free Speech rally scheduled speakers for August 19, 2017
Boston Free Speech rally scheduled speakers 8/19/2017

Annotated list

  1. Anne Armstrong
    • Anne Armstrong is a leader of a fringe religious group called the Healing Church. They are an offshoot of the Catholic Church whose primary difference from the main church seems to be their use of marijuana edibles in place of communion wafers. This has, naturally, landed them in hot water with authorities.
  2. Dan Hill
    • I don’t know who this is.
  3. Michael Lindskog
    • I don’t know who this is.
  4. Garret Kirkland
    • According to the Kuhner Report, this guy is an activist who considers himself anti-war and pro-civil liberties. Back in the day, he was part of the End the Fed (Ron Paul) movement and the Occupy movement. He is currently associated with Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) which purports itself to be “a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality.”
  5. Daniel Alejandro Medina
    • I couldn’t find much on this guy. He’s from Massachusetts and appears to be some kind of local performance artist. He has a lightly used YouTube channel. Joe Biggs posted a clip of his speech to Twitter; and, in the clip, he says, “I still believe that, far into the future, love will be our greatest currency.” Doesn’t sound much like a racist to me.
  6. Benjamin/Citizen D’Amour
    • I don’t know who this is.
  7. Donnie Palmer
    • I found a Boston police officer of the same name, but I have no idea if it’s the same person.
  8. Rinaldo Del Gallo
  9. Rod Webber
    • This guy is a hippy-dippy independent film maker/documentarian. His current project is called Flowers For Peace. He seems anything but alt right.
  10. Tammy Lee
    • She is a member of the American Freedom Keepers (AFK) which, as best as I can tell, is a militia that describes itself as part of the “patriot movement.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the so-called patriot movement is full of racists, conspiracy theorists and domestic terrorists including Louis Beam, Randy Weaver, Pete Peters, Terry Nichols, the Branch Davidians, and the sovereign citizens movement.
  11. Samson Racioppi
    • He did an interview with WCVB following the event saying that his intention was to speak against hate groups. Unfortunately, he said the event was so disorganized that he couldn’t even find the entrance to the stage (law enforcement had set up elaborate barriers). He considers himself a congressional candidate, though I’d never heard of him before. On his Facebook profile, he poses with a “Nazis go home” poster. Safe to say that, whatever else he might be, he’s not alt right.
  12. Shiva Ayyadurai
    • Famous for his claim to have invented email and his blood thirst for anyone who contests it, this guy is a highly educated and highly controversial Republican running for one of Massachusetts’ US Senate seats (the one Elizabeth Warren currently sits). He bills himself as anti-GMOs, anti-sanctuary cities, and generally anti-establishment. Anti-establishment though he might be, a free speech rally seems an odd haven for a man who helped bring down Gawker and is currently dolling out the same financially ruinous litigious punishment to Techdirt.com–all because the two sites said unflattering things about him. Wah.
  13. Kyle Chapman
    • This guy has embraced the nickname “Based Stickman.” He received the title after Berkley police arrested him in March of 2017 for attacking anti-Trump protesters with a lead-filled stick and other weapons. He denies the charges and says he is the victim of a conspiracy. He is the founder of the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights (FOAK) which is a more militant extension of Proud Boys (infra). It would seem he seeks to expand the definition of free speech to include fists and sticks.
  14. Joe Biggs
    • He is an online, “alternative media” writer who describes his political leanings as “far right of center but in my own way.” He came to fame as a writer for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ website Infowars.com. He now runs his own website, Borderland Alternative Media (BAM). His website’s “journalists” don’t cite sources or tout journalism degrees, but they do brag about their many many certificate program completions as well as their Myers–Briggs personality test results. While Biggs seems as eager as Trump to label his enemies “fake news” (God, please, make it stop), a defender of free speech he does seem to be.
Kyle Chapman aka Based Stick Man
Kyle Chapman aka Based Stick Man

Where be the racists?

The scheduled speakers for Boston Free Speech are certainly a colorful crew. That said, I couldn’t find any unifying thread from one to the other except that they are all pretty fringe. Speaker selection seems to have had less to do with the substance of a person’s message and more to do with their willingness to show up. While some of these folk travel in questionable circles (e.g. militias), and others seem more anti than pro free speech, I couldn’t find any reason to label any of them racist.

That of course begs the question: Did the thousands of people who flooded Boston’s streets to protest this ragtag rally even know what they were protesting?

Postscript

While the final list of scheduled speakers doesn’t appear to have included any obvious racists, I couldn’t help but wonder: What about the speakers who cancelled following the prior week’s racially-charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia? I doubt this list is complete, but here are the cancelled speakers I could identify:

  • Augustus Invictus
    • The Southern Poverty Law Center lists him as a proponent of civil war in the US, eugenics and militias (the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights/Proud Boys). He’s also a Holocaust denier.
  • Brandon Navom
    • I couldn’t find much on this guy except that he ran for city council in Lowell, Massachusetts in 2013 and he works in IT.
  • Cassandra Fairbanks
    • The BBC describes her as “an activist and social media star [who] has undergone a remarkable political transformation, from a hero on the left to a writer for a Russian state-funded news agency who supports Donald Trump.” You can check her out on Twitter.
  • Gavin McInnes
    • He cofounded Vice Media and currently runs the Gavin McInnes Show. He is a regular guest on Fox News and Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze and considers himself the original hipster. He is Catholic, a libertarian and founder of the Proud Boys (whose membership includes Augustus Invictus and Based Stickman, above).
  • Laura Loomer
    • She got her start working for Project Veritas–the group that (for example) likes to secretly record so-called “sting” videos where they capture abortionists talking about selling fetuses to research groups. She currently works for Rebel Media, the “Canadian Breitbart.” She is known for her political theatrics/publicity stunts which include dressing the Wall Street Fearless Girl statue in a burqa and, in June 2017, getting herself arrested for interrupting a controversial performance of Julius Caesar that involved the assassination of a suspiciously Trumpesque protagonist.
  • Vermin Supreme
    • A “performance artist and political satirist,” he came in fourth in New Hampshire’s 2016 Democratic presidential primary. He is an anarchist, but not much else is known about his politics.




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