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

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Occupy W Street Growing

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Boston Correspondent Karin Friedemann reports on growing “Occupy Boston” phenomenon

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

abramSince the end of September, hundreds of protesters under the banner “Occupy Boston” have set up camp in downtown Boston, Massachusetts to support the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” protests in New York. Their demands are varied, but seem to be focused on unemployment, rising food prices, and the unfairness of billions of dollars of tax money being spent on useless wars and bank bailouts while the American dream of home ownership and “a chicken in every pot” steadily dies, as ordinary citizens lose their financial security.

Tents have filled up a public park while crowds chant slogans such as “Tax the Rich,” hold up hand made signs and fill the air with music and drumming. Celebrities have come to perform, and the homeless have been receiving free food and clothing. Compared to the scene in New York, Occupy Boston is enjoying a festive atmosphere despite the chilly weather, free of tension without any hint of police brutality. Various people drop by with donations of money, food, blankets and kind words, while the number of campers continues to grow.

The mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino and the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick have decided that there will be no arrests of protesters and have in fact stated publicly that they support the right of citizens to express their opinions. The protesters have been told they are free to camp out as long as they choose.

Media criticism has focused on the cost upon taxpayers to pick up the garbage and provide the tent city with electricity. It is highly probable that the City of Boston has decided to avoid the bad press that comes along with police violence against angry mobs. It is also much cheaper to provide these very basic services to the protesters than to arrest and detain them and then pay for all of them to go to trial and provide them all with court-appointed lawyers. Furthermore, there might be some quiet agreement with the slogan “Tax the Rich” among many in the leadership, for this is one of the principles upon which the State of Massachusetts operates, as the only state in the US that provides free health insurance to the lower middle class.

Massachusetts is already well-known as the US state which takes the best care of its poorer citizens out of its wealthy tax base, providing government-subsidized child care starting from the age of one month, after school and summer programs for teens, nearly free sports programs, food and cash aid and reduced housing prices for the poor. Yet it is still not enough for everyone to feel secure. The working middle class is hardest hit by the economy since they do not qualify for most of these programs and often go into debt trying to provide for their families due to medical bills, childcare or the high price of gasoline.

Occupy Boston is not your usual group of punks and hippies with nothing else to do but complain. The movement has been joined by college students, nurses, pilots, and other workers. As I drove on the highway today past the electrical workers’ union I saw a fancy electrical sign reading “We the People Occupy Boston.”

America’s largest labor union, the AFL-CIO with 11 million members has backed the growing movement, stating: “The Wall Street banks and the largest corporations refuse to pay their fair share of taxes while our infrastructure crumbles. They sit on record profits while the rest of the country suffers, and they still refuse to put people back to work.”

The Boston Herald reports that many of the elderly are showing their support. A retired 71-year-old gentleman, who ran his own corporate headhunting firm, visited the tent village yesterday afternoon to advise the young people to focus on making clearer demands. “I’d like to see the group more focused on applying pressure to specific areas,” he stated.

Some feel it makes no sense using so much personal energy to speak out against such a vague term as “Corporate Greed” without actually naming names of bankers or lobbyists who should go to jail, for example, or demanding some specific reforms of the process of electing public officials. Specifically, Occupy Boston could use its voice to demand universal health care for all of Massachusetts, a measure that would even save the rich thousands of dollars a year. MassHealth is the best health insurance in America, with zero co-payments and even free replacements for broken eyeglasses. Preventing disease is so much less costly than treating it.

Occupy Boston is a unique and bizarre political situation, where banks and financial corporations have opened their doors to the hundreds of anti-bank anti-corporation protesters to let them use the toilet. The unrest seems to be good for local capitalism, since all these people have to eat. One of America’s leading pro-Israel advocates Rabbi Michael Lerner has been actively recruiting Jews to participate in the protests – perhaps to steer the conversation away from cutting US aid to Israel, which would be an obvious way to quickly make more money available to the masses of disgruntled Americans.

Even more contradictory are the conflicting views of the people involved. Right-wing Libertarian protesters demand an end to the credit-based economy and want to return to the Gold Standard, while the Leftists and Liberals simply want to steer more borrowed government money into improving and expanding welfare programs. But most are in agreement that jobs are more important than foreign wars and that the government needs to focus more on its citizens not the demands of corporate lobbyists.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer

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