Mainers to travel south for 'Free Speech Rally' in Boston

NOW: Leaving hate behind

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A contingent of about 200 Mainers will travel to Boston on Saturday to counter-protest the groups organizing the Free Speech Rally.

Mainers for Accountable Leadership held a press conference Friday afternoon to announce that a group will travel to Boston in partnership with a non-profit called "Life After Hate." A GoFundMe page that MAL posted on Tuesday has raised more than $6,000 for the group, which helps people who wish to leave hateful ideologies.

"When we heard about what was happening in Boston, we felt like it was our responsibility to counter that with a compassionate response," said Dini Merz, one of the co-founders of Mainers for Accountable Leadership. 

Boston Police will prohibit any sticks or weapons from the rally, and will keep the two groups at a distance from each other. Merz said that in the event of violence, they have been trained in de-escalation techniques.

"We know that it can happen. I think everyone of us is prepared. We are all committed to peace and peaceful protest -- absolute and total commitment to nonviolence," said Merz.

The organizer of the Free Speech Rally said hate groups are not welcome.

Joining the Maine contingent will be co-founders of Life After Hate. Many people who separate themselves from hateful ideologies call themselves "formers." Angela King, a former skinhead, will be there. King said she began to remove herself from the group after an interaction while she was serving a sentence for a hate crime, when an African-American woman taught her to play cribbage.

"Some of them treated me very humanely, and I didn't expect that. It disarmed me. They did not let me off the hook. They held me accountable. They asked me really tough questions, but obviously in prison you can't get up and run away from those kinds of questions," said King.

King said that her group does not actively try to drag people away from their hateful ideologies.

"We don't go out and actually try to pull people out, we think of it as planting seeds," said King. "The individuals who see that -- they're never going to be able to get that out of their minds."

The ACLU of Maine released a statement regarding its stance on hate speech, saying there is no legal definition:

"The ACLU has a long history of supporting the right to free speech, even when it comes to speech we abhor. The foundation of our democracy is freedom of speech and the ability to assemble and organize. We also know that allowing the government to decide who can speak will almost always result in further oppression of the most vulnerable among us. 

"We will always fight for free speech, but the First Amendment must never be used as a cover for violence.

"When it comes to providing legal representation, we consider each situation on a case-by-case basis - and the events of Charlottesville will inform those decisions going forward. For instance, we can choose not to represent groups seeking to march with firearms when it is reasonable to believe there will be violence at their gatherings."

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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