Occupy Boston: The Police and the Protest

On Saturday, October 8, the relationship between the protesters of Occupy Boston and the Boston Police Department was friendly.

“The police have been cooperative.” Geoff Matheson, local entrepreneur and Logistics volunteer told the Quad on Saturday, “The first day or two, they were coming by, giving us help setting up the tarp.”

The police stood In front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, a group gathered in the square to discuss ideas. “I propose,” said one man, to an echoing crowd, “That the Boston Police Department is doing a hell of a better job than the New York Police Department.” Another added, “I say that even if it’s just in the public image, it’s good enough.”

The two hundred activists cheered for the officers; they did nothing in response. The crowd was not supposed to be in front of the building, but the cops took no direct action to make them move. Instead, they talked to people like Matheson.

In exchange for the crowds moving away from the bank, a friend told Matheson, they would be allowed to add a few more tents to their camp in Dewey Square. To the people in the Logistics tent, that was good enough. The crowds moved away peacefully.

But on early Monday morning, the scene was entirely different.

By 10pm, the crowds had spilled beyond their base-camp in Dewey Square, down to the next park on the corners of Atlantic and Congress. The afternoon’s student protests had brought a few more tents, and a second site was set up. But according to Boston Police, who had spent the weekend trying to keep the number of people in the square in check, another camp was not in the cards.

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The police gave the protesters an ultimatum: break down the camp by midnight, or they would intervene.

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Police and emergency vehicles were lined up down the street. | Image courtesy of Hannah Morrison.

The protesters did not budge. At midnight, some 300 people stood behind police tape, linked arm-in-arm in a circle around the two individual camps. Police officers stood off to the side, watching from just outside South Station.

“We don’t think they’re actually going to do anything at midnight,” said one Boston University student who chose to remain anonymous. “They’re going to wait until people get bored. They’re going to wait until, like 4am, when everyone has gone home. Then they’re going to go after us.”

She wasn’t quite right, but the BPD did wait until after the T stopped running. Over a loudspeaker, the police issued a final warning.

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The bomb squad arrived with riot gear: shields, helmets and clubs. The police circled the perimeter of the second camp. Around 20 paddywaggons sat waiting in the street. A mass arrest was imminent.

And then, at around 1:30, it began.

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The Veterans for Peace line up outside the police line. | Image courtesy of Hannah Morrison.

The Veterans for Peace, who had been standing on the corner just outside of the camp, were the first line of defense against the police, but not even the veterans could stand in their way. One Youtuber caught the action on video, and uploaded it almost instantly.

“One of the things that struck me the most about the police arrests were the way they treated innocent, peaceful people, especially the veterans,” said Hannah Morrison (CAS ’14), a BU student who was in the Square at the time.  “I talked to one Vietnam Veteran who had been carrying a Veterans for Peace flag and he showed me his bloody, scratched knees that were proof of the police pushing him down in the park.”

The BPD take down the tents at the second campsite. | Photo courtesy of Hannah Morrison.

It didn’t take long for the police to disassemble the camp. Tents were taken down and thrown away, signs piled into dumpsters, and everything else that was left behind was tossed too, among the piles were medical supplies that had been gathered.

There were over 100 arrests from the second camp. Arraignments have been ongoing throughout the day.

There will be a Town Hall meeting tonight at Boston Common at 7pm. Whether the events of last night have left the Occupy Boston effort crippled remains to be seen, but the cooperative, amicable relationship shared between the BPD and the protesters was a sure casualty.

Disclaimer: Quad Editor-in-Chief Kelly Dickinson was on the scene from midnight until 12:45. From then on, she relied on the valuable live feeds from the official Occupy Boston Livestream, an on-the-ground stream by Ben Greenberg, and the @Occupy_Boston twitter feed, with occasional updates from @Boston_Phoenix and @BUCultureShock. Special thanks Hannah Morrison for her photo contributions and comments, and to the students and protesters who talked to her, students and others, masked and unmasked.

About Kelly Dickinson

Kelly is a CAS/COM senior double-majoring in Psychology and Film. She was the editor-in-chief last year, but she ceded to Ingrid in a mostly-bloodless coup. Right now, she's Producing on QuadCast, checking off her BU bucket-list and hunting for one of those "job" things.

View all posts by Kelly Dickinson →

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