Monday, January 02, 2012

Good Morning, Occupy Boston!

14 December 2011

On December 8, Judge Frances McIntyre lifted the restraining order protecting Occupy Boston from being shut down.

McIntyre said that while the protesters are exercising their rights to freedom of expression, the occupation of state land is neither speech “nor is it immune from criminal prosecution for trespass or other crimes.” This does not mean eviction is imminent, but the restraining order against the police no longer applies. Throughout the day, occupiers were handed a notice warning them that they would be subject to criminal trespass if they remained in the park. The ACLU of Massachusetts was actively involved in informing occupiers of their rights.

While some protesters packed up and went home, others decided to stand their ground. A few even moved their tents to the middle of Atlantic Avenue just before 2am on Friday. Expecting a possible police crackdown, thousands of supporters from nearby areas flooded into the campsite awaiting the midnight deadline, yet midnight came and went with no response from police officers, as they stood around the perimeter looking into the swelling crowd.

Occupy Boston’s newswire reports that the protesters “rallied at midnight, making circles two deep around tents, as the Veterans for Peace stood guard, white flags snapping in the wind.”

Police blocked off the streets surrounding Dewey Square just before 1am on Friday as hundreds of Occupiers and Occupy supporters packed the encampment. Boston Police Superintendent William Evans said that the police would not be moving in on Dewey Square early Friday morning. He stated that even though Mayor Thomas Menino set the deadline, he did not specify when the camp would be shut down.

As the news came in that no raid was coming, and no was eviction imminent, protesters danced in the streets to celebrate. FOX News reported that “the encampment site in Dewey Square in the city’s financial district looked noticeably smaller Friday than it had since the protesters first began occupying the site on September 30. Only about 40 protesters and 35 tents remained, covering less than half the area the protest once did.”

While there is no obvious victory for the protesters as they continue their standoff with the City of Boston, it is clear that the voices of the many are influencing current events. Two weeks ago, a federal judge blocked a settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Citigroup, saying that he could not be sure that it was “fair, adequate, or in the public interest,” while last week, a District Attorney announced she was suing the banks for fraudulent foreclosure practices.

The very next day after their feared eviction, on December 9, Boston Occupiers amassed against the Department of Housing and Community Development to demonstrate against the lack of affordable housing and ongoing evictions of homeowners, connecting it with the plight of their tent city, citing such statistics:

Each year, 600,000 families with 1.35 million children experience homelessness in the United States, making up about 30 per cent of the homeless population over the course of a year. In any given day, researchers estimate that more than 200,000 children have no place to live. A full time worker earning minimum wage cannot afford a one bedroom unit priced at Fair Market Rent anywhere in the United Stated. Federal Support for low income housing has fallen by 40 per cent from 1980-2003, 15 per cent of all American families and 32 per cent of single parent families live below the poverty line.

During a visit to the site, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis wouldn’t say what the city plans to do about the remaining protesters.“We have learned over the past ten weeks just how powerful the people can be,” stated a spokesperson for Occupy Boston. “Unproductive wealth struggles to justify its inefficiency, and deceit grows helpless before a truth that has found its people.”

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer

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