BOSTON (CN) – Surrounded by pro-Trump slogans and chants against “commie scum,” a progressive activist trumpeted free-speech rights at a Saturday rally organized by self-styled American nationalists.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, a lawyer based in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, had filed suit earlier this month to ensure his participation, but the march around Boston Common ultimately arrived with no court intervention.
The march was organized after a misfire in August, just one week after a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned fatal for one counter-protester.
Del Gallo complained that he was slated to speak at the Aug. 19 rally in Boston but that barricades police set up around the rally ultimately excluded him.
Though he brought his complaint pro se, Del Gallo’s claims curried favor from the American Civil Liberties Union, media groups and other proponents of the First Amendment.
In a Nov. 16 brief, they noted that police barricades at the August rally had also improperly closed off the event to journalists and tens of thousands of counter-protesters. Courthouse News was among the news outlets barred from this summer’s rally.
City officials undercut the need for an injunction, however, by saying in an opposition brief that they would allow reporters to access all areas of Saturday’s rally.
An unsuccessful candidate for state Senate who ran as a Bernie Sanders progressive, Del Gallo told the crowd this weekend that the First Amendment does not discriminate between left-leaning activists like him and the conservatives who organized the rally.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people here that disagree with me, but they have allowed me to speak,” Del Gallo said, as captured in video footage of the event. “There’s a lot of you out there that don’t want people to speak and they’re wrong.”
In addition to injunctive relief, Del Gallo also requested $250 in punitive damages for the violation of his rights in August.
The ACLU called the August events unconstitutional, saying “it was both a content- and viewpoint-based restriction on speech, in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Boston’s opposition brief notes that the man who organized this weekend’s rally, Mark Sahady, was initially denied a permit to use Boston Common because another large-scale event was already scheduled and permitted for the same day.
With Sahady planning to hold his event regardless of the permit status, city attorneys noted that there would be no official interference “with the rights of any individual to speak on the Boston Common on November 18, 2017.”
In contrast to the ACLU’s brief, which notes “no reports of serious violence by any civilian” at the Aug. 19 Boston rally, the city’s brief cites a disruption by approximately 40,000 counter-protestors who far outnumbered the so-called American nationalists participating in the event.
“The disruption created an extremely contentious environment, culminating in physical altercations between participants and counter protestors,” Boston’s brief states. “Additionally, individuals assaulted officers by biting, spitting, punching, pushing, and hitting them with objects. Objects thrown at officers and rally attendees included bottles, bottles filled with urine, traffic cones, rocks, other small objects, and what officers described as petroleum-based gel-type starter fluid for home grill use.”
U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor is presiding over the Del Gallo case in the Western District of Massachusetts.
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