Occupy Boston Dismantled

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

ScreenShot001At 5am, Saturday, December 10, 2011, police swept through Occupy Boston’s encampment at Dewey Square. Protesters first erected the encampment on September 30. As the officers moved in, about two dozen demonstrators linked arms and sat down in nonviolent protest and police soon began arresting them, according to the Boston Globe. The protesters were “very accommodating” to the officers, Police Chief Driscoll said. Forty-six people were arrested on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, but no injuries were reported. Protesters estimate that 100 to 150 activists lived in the Boston encampment. Boston is the latest in a string of cities where officials have moved to oust protesters demonstrating against corporate greed and economic injustice. Demonstrators were also forcibly removed from similar encampments in New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

“A few days back, Boston Mayor Menino told the media/public (and indirectly the court considering an injunction) that he had no immediate plans to evict the Occupy Boston folks from Dewey Park. He just wanted the ability to do so if necessary for health/safety reasons. He was lying, of course, or we’ve just witnessed the fastest landscape planning and permitting exercise in the history of Boston,” comments local blogger Scarecrow.

By 10am, a large crew employed by the City arrived with dump trucks and new soil, a back hoe with grader and air-driven soil aerators to re-do the landscaping at the former protest site.

The main role of this parkway is to separate the dual auto expressways. Dewey Square has never been a park where people normally walk. Once the protesters set up camp in the middle of the Financial District in this island between expressways, many hopeless and homeless people joined them.

Scarecrow explains: “So it was no surprise that the mostly young, idealistic and courageous occupiers were forced from day 1 to recreate government, to develop mechanisms to deal, face to face with drug abuse, violent/uncontrolled behavior, unemployment, homelessness, hunger and poor health. It wasn’t all just marches and demonstrations and rallies and teach-ins; it was also a daily struggle for human and humane survival.”

Even though this public strip of grass is now “cleaned up,” the problem of poverty has not gone away. Reports indicate that the homeless people were crying as the police cleared out the area.
Acacia Brewer from the Occupy Boston movement told Iran’s Press TV, “A few days ago we were at the Dewey Square encampment, and since then we’ve been having general assemblies down at the Boston Common which was where we first started.”

Just hours after a 5 am police raid cleared Dewey’s tent city, Occupiers braved the cold at Boston Common to plan a new strategy: Occupy Everywhere. Occupy Boston even has its own live radio link now.

Meanwhile, onlookers nationwide have been rethinking their positions regarding the use of public space. Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City says there is already evidence that chronically homeless people are finding great inspiration in the Occupy Kitchen and work.

“We clergy were all somewhat skeptical of the demand for public space… But the occupiers edged toward the theological as they articulated a need for communal, inspirational, face-to-face contact in which they could “appear” to one another…

“…they spoke of a new monasticism, in which people have given up everything to jump to a future they can only imagine. In the most recent newsletter posted by Occupy Theory, occupiers describe how sad they were about their lives, both present and future, until they found each other. If you were worried about “young people today” before, you will be terrified after you read about the emptiness, the bought-and-soldness, the futility, the lack of any place to be or person to be.”

Will all this community result in a just economy?

Some skepticism is warranted, given the past three decades of American politics. Anyone demonstrating for any cause has typically been marginalized and isolated. It has been the norm for there to be only a handful of protesters, sometimes even only only one lone protester, against any serious issue such as AIPAC lobbying, imprisonment of random Muslims, or escalation of US wars. So why, all of a sudden, is there a nationwide movement of protest? And why is the TV News even mentioning them? It’s unusual.

Michel Chossudovsky states in his article, Occupy Wall Street and “The American Autumn”: Is It a “Colored Revolution”? that “the elites will promote a ‘ritual of dissent’ with a high media profile, with the support of network TV, the corporate news as well as the internet.”

According to Chossudovsky, several key organizations currently involved in The Occupy Wall Street movement played a significant role in “The Arab Spring”.

The involvement of corporate funding of the anti-capitalist movement probably cannot be denied. TV News stations such as FOX have not indulged in such around-the-clock coverage since the Gulf War, even though typically, any meaningful protest would be ignored by the media.

Yet, the atmosphere of the Occupy movement has been described by participants as “electrifying.” Real human concerns are being addressed here. Only time will tell if this protest movement was just orchestrated to let off steam, or if it will result in any improvements in the political system.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. See karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

13-52

Good Morning, Occupy Boston!

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, Boston

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 on Thursday, others decided to stand their ground. A few even moved their tents to the middle of Atlantic Avenue just before 2am on Friday. Two protesters were arrested for blocking traffic, but there were no other police confrontations with the demonstrators who gathered at the site as the deadline loomed.

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.

“I have no intention of leaving,” said 20-year-old Brandon Cloran of Lynn, Massachusetts, who has lived at the camp for the past six weeks.

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 Sept. 30. Only about 40 protesters and 35 tents remained, covering less than half the area the protest once did…

“Hours later, as dawn approached, the scene was markedly quieter, with only a handful of police officers keeping eye on the remaining protesters, a few of whom were still packing up tents and gathering belongings. One protester was raking part of the greenway that had been vacated by other members of the movement.”

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.

MoveOn reports: “Senate Democrats are proposing an extension of small but helpful tax cuts for the 99%—paid for by a surcharge on millionaires… With votes on unemployment benefits, Medicare payments, and a Wall Street tax likely before the end of the year, this final month of 2011 will force every member of Congress to show who they really represent.”

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% 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% from 1980-2003

15% of all American families and 32% of single parent families live below the poverty line

During a visit to the site 8am Friday, 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. See karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

13-51

Boston Police Confiscate Sink From Protest Camp

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

After a four day court battle, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre ruled to extend a restraining order blocking the City of Boston from clearing out the tent city at Dewey Square. She will make a final ruling by Dec. 15. Until then, city officials can’t kick out the Occupy Boston protesters.

Occupy Boston started in Dewey Square on September 30, 2011. It was directly inspired by Occupy Wall Street in New York City. The continued occupation of Dewey Square—located in the heart of Boston’s Financial District—is one of more than 120 Occupy encampments in cities across the nation.

The protesters want elected officials to address the economic needs of the people and want to end the influence of corporate lobbyists. Mayor Thomas Menino states that he essentially agrees with these viewpoints, but feels that the park should be available for everyone, and that these issues would be best brought up with Washington. Fire Marshalls say the protest site is a fire hazard, while the Board of Health has pointed out health hazards related to lack of sanitation.

Occupy Boston attempted to address some of these concerns by bringing in a donated sink that was equipped for both hand-washing and dish-washing using bottled water. They also tried to bring in fireproof, winterized tents as well as wooden pallets to make the walkways safer. All these items have been confiscated by the police, who labeled them “contraband.”
On December 1, a struggle took place between protesters and police hauling away the donated sink from the food tent, which resulted in three arrests as people blocked the streets to prevent removal of the sink. The Occupy Boston website reads:

“Since the restraining order from Judge McIntyre prevents the Boston Police from dismantling our camp except in the case of a fire, violence, or other emergency, we are puzzled by this police action.”
Authorities have banned protesters from bringing material that could be used to convert the encampment into a permanent dwelling. Mayor Menino stated: “We’re not going to have them build a new town there.”

The City of Boston finds itself in a contradictory position. On one hand, the Mayor has frequently supported the right of protesters to voice their opinions while expressing concerns about safety, but on the other hand, the City is removing items essential for improving the health and safety of the protesters.

Protesters insist: “You cannot evict an idea. Occupy Boston will continue to improve our community in Dewey Square. We ask that the BPD uphold their stated commitment to protecting public safety by allowing Occupy Boston to properly maintain and equip our encampment for the cold weather.”

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

13-50

Occupy Boston Confronts Police

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

“The people united will never be defeated,” chanted the Occupy Boston protesters who had expanded their peaceful encampment beyond the original campsite to accommodateadditional participants.  Veterans for Peace took a front line position as protesters were arrested.

From the beginning, protesters had worked tirelessly to maintain a positive working relationship with city officials. Actions by the Boston Police Department represent a sudden shift away from that dialogue.

“We have a purpose. It’s called the Constitution,” chanted the crowd as police removed campers from the park and trampled the veterans’ flags into the mud. The given reasonfor forcibly removing the protesters at 1:30am was a newly planted flower garden, but the police trampled these flowers in their zeal to curb public enthusiasm for Occupy Boston.

“The whole world is watching”repeated the protesters, with the same hope that has accompanied the Palestinian or Lebanese populations as they have been repelled by“the authorities,” awaiting some kind of angelic or global intervention.

“This is what democracy looks like”was the final word of the crowd as the protesters were arrested.

Official postings from the Occupy Boston newsfeed read:

“As Occupy Boston has grown, the initial area of the occupation has become overcrowded with tents and people. The original encampment is in Dewey Square Park, the southernmost end of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the ribbon of parks created when Boston’s expressway was put underground by the Big Dig. In a spontaneous, autonomous action,a large number of occupiers moved into the next section of the Greenway… A subsequent proposal to officially ratify the expanded presence was adopted by consensus at a General Assembly held in the new space.”

“Boston police arrested 141 people during recent Occupy Boston demonstrations. The early morning arrests were made for trespassing and unlawful assembly. After almost 15 hours in custody, finally all of the peaceful demonstrators the Boston Police Department arrested have been released as of 6:00pm October 11th. Occupy Boston has many eye witness accounts and video evidence of police misconduct.”

Protesters have continued holding a daily “General Assembly” for making group decisions. Occupy Boston ratified a statement of solidarity with indigenous peoples at the Saturday October 8thGeneral Assembly, “recognizing that ‘we are guests upon stolen indigenous land.’” Boston thus became the first city in the broader“Occupation movement” to clearly declare its solidarity with indigenous peoples. This is important for all Americans who have been supporting freedom for Palestine.

“United American Indians of New England (UAINE) supports Occupy/Decolonize Boston and the Occupy/Decolonize Wall Street movement generally. We are deeply moved and encouraged that Occupy/Decolonize Boston, as one of its very first actions, issued a memorandum in solidarity with Indigenous peoples.

“We have been the victims of corporate greed for centuries. If you seek to reimagine a new society free of corporate greed, then we would ask that you learn all you can about the past that has carried us to this place.

“We fully support the right of the Occupy/Decolonize Boston encampment to expand from Dewey Square to other parks and open spaces in the city,without the necessity of permits and without fear of police reprisals.”

Occupy Boston has maintained that it will non-violently resist any attempt to end the protest before achieving the change they seek. The protesters have not yet united on any clear aim for their protest other than insisting on their right to continue to protest.

Those of us watching from the sidelines can only speculate as to what importance these protests might have on America’s present and future,or how this relates to struggles in other parts of the world. Without doubt, the emotional enthusiasm of these protesters is real, even raw. Even if we don’t quite understand their goals, a visit to one’s local protest site is sure to invigorate the apathetic. First generation Americans should take note of their personal responsibility to defend US democracy in action.

Shays Rebellion of 1786-87 in Western Massachusetts, was the first populist uprising after the American Revolution. Daniel Shays organized poor farmers from the Connecticut River Valley to shut down the courts that were sending them to debtors prison on behalf of big Boston banks. Many of the farmers were veterans who had trudged home from the Revolution “with not a single month’s pay”in their pockets. Shays and his followers have always been viewed as a small group of poor farmers and debtors who closed the courts as a protest of local civil authority.

To quote Howard Zinn: “The American colonists, having fought and won the war for independence from England, faced the question of what kind of government to establish. In 1786, three years after the treaty of peace was signed, there was a rebellion of farmers in western Massachusetts, led by Captain Daniel Shays, a veteran of the Revolutionary war. The uprising was crushed, but it put a scare into those leaders who were to become our Founding Fathers.”

After Shays Rebellion, General Henry Knox warned his former commander, George Washington, about the rebels: “They see the weakness of government; they feel at once their own poverty, compared to the opulent, and their own force, and they are determined to make use of the latter in order to remedy the former. Their creed is that the property of the U.S. has been protected from the confiscations of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore should be the common property of all.”

The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia for 1787 was called to deal with this problem, to set up “big government,” to protect the interests of merchants, slave-holders, and landowners.
The conflict between the original purpose of the Constitution,which was to protect landowners, and the current interpretations protecting the rights of individuals, remains at a standstill. Meanwhile, “We the People” continue to voice general grievances.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. Karinfriedemann.blogspot.com