US & Canada

Boston anti-racism protester: 'It's the right thing to do'

An anti-racism protester holds a sign during the protest march Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption An anti-racism protester holds a sign during the protest march

A viral tweet about a young black woman who escorted Donald Trump supporters through a tense anti-racism protest has been shared by tens of thousands of people on Twitter.

Imani Williams was one of thousands of protesters who took part in a protest to oppose the "Free Speech Rally" in the US city of Boston on Saturday.

Steve Annear, a Boston Globe reporter who covered the protest, spotted Imani's action to protect far-right supporters and tweeted about it.

His tweet has been shared more than 25,000 times and liked more than 76,000 times. Imani's favourite author J K Rowling has tweeted her support.

Image copyright Facebook/Imani Williams
Image caption Imani Williams, the protester who protected far-right supporters

Imani, from New Haven in Connecticut, told the BBC that her action "just seemed like the right thing to do". She said:

"I saw a confrontation happening with a Trump supporter in the middle getting escorted by two police officers. The crowd of about 30 people was swelling around them making it hard to move forward. I knew I had to help because it was just wasn't a positive situation.

"At first, the Trump supporter and the two police officers escorting them weren't quite believing that I was there to help. But I kept saying 'Do you need help?' and since the crowd was swelling around them, they finally agreed to let me help assist them getting through the mass of people. I didn't want to help them, but I knew I had to.

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Media caption"We can't hear you!": How the day unfolded

"They were never going to learn anything by being surrounded and screamed at by 30 people. Even though one of the Trump supporters wasn't innocent and definitely instigating, the better lesson was getting him to the other side of the fence where he and other alt-right sympathisers could look out at all of us and see how few they were versus how many we were, and come to terms with how many of us were willing to stand up against hate.

"That sort of self reflection is the only thing that can change people and get them away from hate and sympathising with hatred. I started helping one guy, and then by the end there was five or six guys just following behind me. The Boston Police Department trusted me enough to get them through.

"Things were pretty heated in the crowd, but non-violent - a lot of people were yelling at them with strong feelings.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Protesters march on the streets to protest against the "Free Speech Rally"

"I don't know what life experiences the people surrounding the Trump supporters could have had: they could have had a family member who died in the Holocaust, or have been a victim of a hate crime, or have even been kicked out of their home as an LGBT child by a family member with conservative ideals. All of that results in immense pain.

"I can't judge others for their pain - but I knew what I could do to help the situation. I told the first Trump supporter as I was helping him that I didn't agree with him, but I just wanted everyone to be safe and he should be on the other side of the fence.

"Sometimes it's difficult having a strong moral compass in a mixed-up world. But in this case, I saw where I could help and I did. That's all you can ever do.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Police officers block counter-protesters

"Non-violent, peaceful confrontation is the only way to change someone's mind when you when you have opposite beliefs but share the same country. I wasn't going to let someone take away my humanity because I was angry and frustrated. I wanted to act above. I wanted to combat hate with compassion. Sometimes conflict can't be avoided, but it should be avoided at all costs.

"Once the group of Trump supporters were escorted to safety, I directed them to where they needed to go. It was tense, there was a lot of emotions on both sides. But as the saying goes, I just tried to be the change I want to see in the world. At the end of the day, it just shows the we're better than them. I showed them the sort of humanity that would never be shown to me if I showed up at a Trump, Nazi or Klu Klux Klan rally. I would have done the same thing no matter where it was happening."

By the UGC and Social News team

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