Mainers will be among thousands on Boston Common on Saturday when conservative activists and counterprotesters stage demonstrations one week after a white nationalist rally in Virginia turned deadly.

It’s expected to be one of the first large racially charged gatherings in a major U.S. city since a man drove his car into anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville last Saturday, killing one woman and injuring 19 others. Events similar to the rally in Boston are planned in Atlanta and Dallas on Saturday. Police in Boston and other cities are bracing for big crowds and vowing to prevent or quickly stop any violence.

“It’s important to stand up to white supremacy wherever it manifests,” said Marena Blanchard, a Portland organizer who co-founded For Us, By Us, a fund to support people of color in Maine. She is among several Mainers who said they are going to Boston to stand against hate.

Boston granted permission for a group called the Boston Free Speech Coalition to host a rally on the Common that a coalition leader has said could draw 1,000 people.

The group wrote on Facebook that they are not affiliated with the organizers of the Charlottesville Unite the Right gathering that attracted neo-Nazis last weekend. Participants are expected to come from Maine and other New England states, according to a Facebook page for the event.

“We are not associated with any alt-right or white supremacist groups, we are strictly about free speech,” the group said.

However, authorities are worried that the event will attract white nationalists, and the Boston-area leaders of Black Lives Matter have said they believe that the event really is about white supremacy. Counterprotesters are planning a 2-mile march from Roxbury to the Common that could draw 20,000 to 30,000 people.

Rochelle Greenwood, who lives in Wells, plans to attend the event with a handful of friends from New Hampshire. She said she’s a conservative and fierce believer in freedom of speech and was interested in hearing some of the speakers.

But after Charlottesville, Greenwood is worried about what she’ll encounter in Boston.

“If there’s violence, that’s just not something I want to be a part of,” she said.

Greenwood, 45, said she doesn’t want to raise her young children in a world where violence is normal. She denounced the actions of white supremacists last weekend, but also criticized Black Lives Matter protesters.

Other Mainers who signed up to attend the event on Facebook did not respond to messages Friday.

Meanwhile, progressive activists in Maine expect dozens of people from the state to be in Boston on Saturday as part of the counterprotests.

A group of women from local social justice groups – Mainers for Accountable Leadership, March Forth and the Maine chapter of the Women’s March on Washington – will travel down together. They hosted a news conference in Portland on Friday afternoon to promote a GoFundMe campaign that has raised more than $6,000 for Life After Hate, which helps people leave hate and white supremacy groups. Several of the women plan to meet and march with the leaders of Life After Hate in Boston.

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

The women reiterated that the protest is a peaceful one, but they are aware of the possibility of violence, especially after seeing the events unfold in Charlottesville last weekend. The city of Boston will have a large police presence at the event, and items such as backpacks and anything that could be used as a weapon have been banned.

“People of color every single day walk out of their houses and feel afraid,” said Jennifer Jones, who helped found an informal activist group called March Forth. “We don’t experience that as white women often. We don’t feel that it’s right to sit home in our safe little houses and watch what is going on in front of our TVs. We want to stand up.”

Some people have suggested that a counterprotest on the Common will only amplify any racist message that might be voiced at the rally. Genevieve Morgan, who was one of the Maine state organizers for the Women’s March on Washington, said she wondered the same thing.

But she said she still couldn’t be silent or stay home.

“I always asked myself, ‘What would I be doing in 1930s Germany,’ ” Morgan said.

There is no official count of people traveling from Maine to Boston for these events, but Jones guessed that as many as 200 people could be making the trip.

“I think there will be more of us than there are people preaching hate tomorrow,” she said.

Christine Baglieri of Lewiston, who is involved with the central Maine chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, said she also will participate in the counterprotest. She knows of several carloads of people from around the state who will be there as well.

“I think it’s really important that when people of color in a dangerous time like this put out a call, that we follow that leadership and show up for them,” Baglieri said.

Blanchard, the founder of For Us, By Us, said she is traveling to Boston as an individual to volunteer for Black Lives Matter and other organizations. She works in social justice and had no hesitation about joining the counterprotest.

“I’m not afraid,” she said. “I’m prepared.”

Blanchard said she hopes people in Maine think about how white supremacy is present in their communities and support initiatives led by people of color.

“It’s really important for people in Maine to start thinking about how they are going to work to eradicate white supremacy in the locations where they are, to start to think about how to see it,” Blanchard said. “A lot of times it’s invisible to white folks.”

Activists in Maine also are planning two local events this weekend in response to the violence in Charlottesville a week ago.

The southern Maine chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice has organized a solidarity march at 2 p.m. Saturday at John Paul Jones Park in Kittery, and the Maine People’s Alliance has planned a rally in Portland’s Payson Park at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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