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Thousands march through Boston a week after Virginia bloodshed

Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged on central Boston, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their Free Speech rally in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism a week after racially-tinged bloodshed in Virginia.

An estimated 15,000 counter-protesters marched through the city to historic Boston Common, where many gathered near a bandstand abandoned early by conservatives who had planned to deliver a series of speeches.

Police vans later escorted the conservatives out of the area, and angry counter-protesters scuffled with armed officers trying to maintain order.

Police Commissioner William Evans said Friday that 500 officers, some in uniform, others undercover, were deployed to keep the two groups apart on Saturday.

Boston's Democratic mayor, Marty Walsh, and Massachusetts' Republican governor, Charlie Baker, both warned that extremist unrest would not be tolerated in the city famed as the cradle of American liberty.

Organisers of the event, billed as a Free Speech rally, have publicly distanced themselves from the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others who fomented violence in Charlottesville on August 12.

A woman was killed at that Unite The Right rally, and scores of others were injured, when a car ploughed into counter-demonstrators.

But opponents feared that white nationalists might show up in Boston anyway, raising the spectre of ugly confrontations in the first potentially large and racially charged gathering in a major US city since Charlottesville.

Events are planned around the country, in cities including Atlanta, Dallas and New Orleans.

Some counter-protesters dressed entirely in black and wore scarves over their faces.

They chanted anti-Nazi and anti-fascism slogans, and waved signs that said Resist Fascism and Hate Never Made US Great. Others carried a large banner that read Smash White Supremacy.

TV cameras showed a group of boisterous counter-protesters on the Common chasing a man with a Trump campaign banner and cap, shouting and swearing at him.

But other counter-protesters intervened and helped the man safely over a fence into the area where the conservative rally was to be staged.

Black-clad counter-protesters also grabbed an American flag out of an elderly woman's hands, and she stumbled and fell to the ground.

The permit issued for the rally on Boston Common came with severe restrictions, including a ban on backpacks, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon.

The Boston Free Speech Coalition, which organised the event, said it has nothing to do with white nationalism or racism and its group is not affiliated with the Charlottesville rally organisers in any way.

"We are strictly about free speech," the group said on its Facebook page. "We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence."

AP

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