Former Berkshire County resident sues Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for $50 million
PITTSFIELD — A former North Adams man is suing Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for $50 million, claiming he falsely associated him with hate groups during last August's Boston Free Speech Rally.
Brandon Navom, who now lives in Lowell, said the mayor's comments cost him his job and opened him up to threats after falsely claiming associations with white supremacists and other hate groups.
"My reputation has been ruined and I will suffer emotional and economic loss the rest of my life because of Mayor Marty Walsh's high profile defamatory comments," the suit reads.
A request for comment from Walsh's office was not returned by press time Tuesday.
The suit was filed Monday in Berkshire Superior Court by Pittsfield attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo, who also was a scheduled speaker at the Boston Free Speech Rally.
Del Gallo said he was invited by another rally organizer to speak as a "progressive."
Navom said he was one of the organizers of the Aug. 19 rally, but ultimately chose not to participate in it, according to the suit. The rally drew a few dozen participants to Boston Common — and tens of thousands of protesters.
It was held a week after a rally in Charlottesville, Va., which was attended by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, ended in violence and the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Navom appeared on an event flyer and on a television newscast, which identified him as an organizer who was scheduled to speak.
According to the suit, Walsh characterized the speakers as "white supremacists," "hate group members," and "neo-Nazis," despite none of them being affiliated with those groups.
"The Mayor's statements were either knowing lies or reckless false statements," the suit reads.
The suit alleges Walsh's comments were made with malice and showed a "reckless disregard for the truth," and served his own political purposes, according to the suit. A simple Google search would have alerted the mayor that none of the speakers were affiliated with hate groups, the suit alleges.
"There is no doubt that Mayor Marty Walsh was aware of such information but made his defamatory statements nonetheless with malice and for political gain," the suit claims.
It cites an Aug. 14 entry on the Anti-Defamation League's website, which noted significant differences between the Charlottesville rally and what was expected in Boston a week later.
"Unlike Charlottesville, the Boston event, as currently planned, is not a white supremacist gathering," according to the league's website.
The league went on to describe the Boston rally as having been organized "under the auspices of the alt lite, which embraces civic nationalism, rather than the alt right, which advocates white nationalism."
"But while the alt right and alt lite are theoretically distinct, there is crossover between them. There are a number of people and groups who walk the line between alt right and alt lite, to the extent that it's not always easy, or even possible, to tell which side they're on," according to the group.
The group did acknowledge that one of the scheduled Boston speakers, Augustus Invictus — born Austin Mitchell Gillespie of Orlando, Fla. — was involved in the planning of the Charlottesville rally and has ties to the alt-right political movement, but it also noted he had been "uninvited" to the event and would not be attending.
The group's website included biographies of the scheduled speakers, including Navom.
In its biography, the group described Navom as a software engineer who ran for Lowell City Council in 2013 and identifies as a Libertarian who attended the party's national convention as a delegate in 2016.
Navom also was a delegate for then-candidate Ron Paul in 2012 and "propagates the conspiracy theory that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered for political reasons," the biography states.
In Facebook posts leading up to the rally, the organizers of Boston Free Speech distanced themselves from the organizers of the Charlottesville rally.
"We will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry. We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence," the statement reads. "We believe that the way to defeat and disarm toxic ideas and ideologies is through dialogue and reason."
The suit alleges Walsh was aware of all of this when he made his statements.
In the time before and after the rally, Walsh allegedly referred to rally organizers as white supremacists, hate groups and neo-Nazis, characterized rally participants as "spewing hate," and made references to the state and city "rejecting hate."
"Mayor Marty Walsh's libelous statements were large and substantial statements mischaracterizing the organizers, speakers and invited attendees as white supremacists, haters or members of hate groups; these were not `minor inaccuracies," according to the suit.
The suit alleges Walsh made the comments to score political points and to portray himself as a "social justice knight," attacking anti-Semitism, white supremacy and racism.
Navom claimed Walsh's statements led to a loss of his software consulting job, and led to him being subjected to an "internet hate mob," which tracked him down and harassed his former employer until he was fired.
"They let me go simply because my name was on the list of speakers," according to Navom, who said the same mob exposed his personal information, including his home address, and threatened to send people after him.
Del Gallo said the suit was filed in Berkshire County rather than Suffolk County due to concerns about getting a fair trial in the Boston area.
Reach staff writer Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249 or @BobDunn413 on Twitter.
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