A federal judge in Boston this week dismissed failed Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai's $50-million lawsuit against Marty Walsh and former Police Commissioner Bill Evans over the city's handling of the rally he and a few of his fellow rightists held at the Parkman Bandstand in 2017, the week after a Nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA ended with an anti-Nazi protester's murder.
This is now the third lawsuit against the city that people involved with the rally have lost. Earlier this year, federal judges dismissed suits by Brandon Navom and Samson Racioppi.
In addition to keeping busy suing the Secretary of State's office over alleged improprieties in his failed 2020 Senate bid, Ayyadurai also filed suit against alleged unconstitutional acts by Walsh and Evans towards his failed 2018 Senate bid, specifically related to the post-Charlottesville rally at which Ayyadurai and a couple dozen of his far-right friends found themselves on the Parkman Bandstand surrounded by a cordon of Boston cops separating them from roughly 40,000 protesters, who kept calling the Parkman group "Nazis." Police escorted the ralliers off the bandstand after 45 minutes, even though they had a city permit for two hours.
In both his original complaint and an amended one he tried unsuccessfully to file, Ayyadurai claimed that Walsh and Evans defamed him and interfered with his First Amendment rights in comments before the rally urging people from out of state not to come to the bandstand, in the way their rally was ended early and in the way that the city failed to prevent 40,000 people from showing up to jeer and protest the small group. Also, by classifying him, a Brown guy from India as a white supremacist, they convinced the media to ignore him.
In her ruling, US District Court Judge Allison Burroughs said Ayyadurai had no case.
To start, as public officials, Walsh and Evans have protection to talk about stuff, specifically under a state law that bans suits against public officials for what they say.
Ayyadurai, who fired his lawyer not long after filing the suit - the same lawyer he fired in his suit against the state - also failed to show any direct connection between the rally's supposedly premature ending, and he failed to provide any proof that the city had any formal policies that discriminated against people like Ayyadurai, a necessary part of a constitutional claim against officials acting in their official capacities.
Here, Plaintiff does not plead facts related to any formal decision by the City which deprived him of his First Amendment rights at the Rally. Rather, as noted by Defendants, Plaintiff acknowledges that the City granted a permit for the Rally and allowed him to gather with his supporters at the Parkman Bandstand on August 19, 2017.
Also, proving defamation requires showing the statements were directed right at him, and Ayyadurai could not show that either Walsh or Evans ever mentioned him specifically at all, save for one comment by Walsh after the rally that he heard one of the people at it was running against Elizabeth Warren. And they can't be held responsible for all those protesters showing up and the press deciding it didn't want to talk to the self-professed inventor of e-mail, she wrote:
Plaintiff does not allege (1) that Walsh or Evans physically removed him from Boston Common themselves; (2) that Walsh or Evans directed police officers to remove him from Boston Common against his will; or (3) that deliberate indifference on the part of Walsh or Evans caused police officers to remove Plaintiff. Rather, in essence, he alleges that counter-protestors violated his right to peaceably assemble, and that Defendants should be held liable for the actions of the counter-protestors because Defendants were responsible for their presence outside of Boston Common. But, as noted above, for Plaintiff's [civil rights] claim to survive, he must also allege that his right to peaceably assemble was violated "under color of state law." See Logiodice v. Trs. of Me. Cent. Inst., 296 F.3d 22, 26 (1st Cir. 2002). ... Here, Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendants coerced the counter-protestors in any way. Also, Defendants' remarks prior to the Rally cannot plausibly be construed as the "significant encouragement" required for the counterprotest to be considered a state action because Defendants' remarks prior to the Rally do not even mention the counterprotest, let alone encourage counter-protestors to show up and disrupt the Rally. Plaintiff's allegations - that Defendants made remarks prior to the Rally, and that a large crowd of counter-protestors subsequently showed up at Boston Common - are, alone, insufficient to tie the individual conduct of Defendants to an alleged violation of Plaintiff's First Amendment rights.
She similarly dismissed the claims about the officials getting the press to ignore him:
Plaintiff does not allege that Defendants prevented him from speaking or otherwise chilled or intimidated his speech, but rather that Defendants’ remarks rendered him too toxic for the press to cover because the press believed him to be a Nazi or white supremacist. ... By bringing this claim under [civil-rights law], Plaintiff is essentially requesting that the Court declare that Plaintiff has a constitutionally protected right to press coverage, but it is for the press - not the Court - to decide what the media covers.
At particular issue for Ayyadurai was a statement Walsh gave before the rally:
Boston does not welcome you here. Boston does not want you here. Boston rejects your message. We reject racism, we reject white supremacy, we reject anti-Semitism, we reject the KKK, we reject neo-Nazis, we reject domestic terrorism, and reject hatred. We will do every single thing in our power to keep hate out of our city.
Burroughs noted the statement does not mention Ayyadurai at all, but that even if it could be inferred that it does, Ayyadurai failed to show that Walsh was speaking out of "actual malice" - that he knew what he was saying was maliciously wrong and said it anyway. That's a higher standard of defamation that applies to public figures, such as Ayyadurai.
Plaintiff provides no factual basis for the assertion that Walsh knew, or recklessly disregarded evidence, that the Rally would be offering a different kind of message than the one on display in Charlottesville the previous weekend. The mere fact that the event was titled the "Free Speech Rally" and being organized by the political campaign of a candidate of Indian descent did not preclude the possibility that the Rally could have ended up being a forum for the type of speech Walsh was denouncing. Indeed, the outreach coordinator of Plaintiff's campaign acknowledged that "legitimate white supremacist groups . . . are attempting to hijack the [R]ally."