Lawyer sues Boston officials for 1st Amendment violations
A self-styled Bernie Sanders progressive has hit city officials with a lawsuit for what he called “extreme violations” of the First Amendment at this summer’s Free Speech Rally — and he wants local authorities barred from repeating those alleged actions this weekend at another Boston Common event.
“I have never seen such extreme violations of the First Amendment, and I don’t think there has been anything like it in decades,” said Rinaldo Del Gallo, the attorney and former state Senate candidate from Pittsfield who brought the suit. “If municipalities are allowed to act like this, you can kiss the First Amendment goodbye.”
He argues in the federal civil suit that Boston officials prevented him from speaking at the Aug. 19 Free Speech Rally, that people weren’t allowed near the Parkman Bandstand to hear the speakers, and that event organizers weren’t allowed to use “sufficient amplification” to have their voices heard.
He added that the media was improperly barred from the bandstand.
Del Gallo filed the suit against Mayor Martin J. Walsh, police Commissioner William B. Evans, Parks and Recreation Department Commissioner Christopher Cook and several unnamed police officers last week.
He is asking for $500 million for what he called “unprecedented” free-speech violations.
“We just want it to be known that the damages here were serious,” he said. “These were ridiculous measures to squash free speech, and we don’t want the city to do this again. This can’t be a slap on the wrist.”
He is also asking that a federal judge block authorities from interfering with the “Rally for the Republic” — an event run by the Resist Marxism group, which is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Common.
The city and police declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
At a press conference yesterday at City Hall, organizers of the rally said they will also file suit against the city if officials attempt to shut down the gathering, which was not granted a permit.
“If a patriotic group such as ours continues to be discriminated against by the city, we are prepared to take legal action,” said John Medlar, an organizer of the Resist Marxism rally. “The mayor can explain to his constituents why taxpayer money is being used to pay for lawsuits.”
Boston police spokesman Lt. Det. Michael McCarthy said local authorities have been in communication with “all parties who are planning events this weekend.”
“We will have adequate resources in place to ensure the safety of all those attending the events,” he said, in an email. “We do not anticipate any issues with crowd size or planned events happening this weekend.”
Del Gallo is separately representing Brandon Navom, a Free Speech Rally organizer, in a civil defamation suit against Walsh.
The state lawsuit accuses the mayor of lying for characterizing the event organizers as “white supremacists.”