Noelle Swan

Court Rules Occupy Boston Fair Game for Eviction; Passes Buck to Mayor

Noelle Swan
New England Post
December 8, 2011
 

Superior Court Judge Frances A. McIntyre denied Occupy Boston protesters’ request for a preliminary injunction and lifted the restraining order that protected the campers living in Dewey Square from mass removal by Boston Police on Wednesday afternoon.

“[W]hile Occupy Boston protesters may be exercising their expressive rights during their protest,” McIntyre explained in her memorandum of decision, “they have no privilege under the First Amendment to seize and hold the land on which they sit.”

Social media sites exploded Wednesday afternoon with the news of the ruling. Organizers urged demonstrators to remain calm, but called supporters to an emergency meeting at Dewey Square to process the ruling and to solidify contingency plans in case of a raid. A few dozen supporters gathered at the campsite, despite relentless rain, to hash out the logistics like allocating funds to rent trucks to move out equipment. Occupy Boston lawyer Benjamin Wish was on hand to explain the ruling and to assure protesters that he would file an appeal on Thursday morning.

On the outskirts of the crowd, Noah McKennah, one of the named plaintiffs in the case expressed his disappointment with the decision. “What we’re doing here should be legal…I’m really disappointed that the judge missed an opportunity here to affirm that democracies take work. Democracies are active. This is not a spectator sport.”

Robin Jacks, one of the initial organizers that called for occupation of Dewey Square, said that the ruling confused her. “She says that the tents are okay, the food is okay, the being here is okay, the sleeping is okay, but what’s not okay is the occupy. But what is the occupy?”

Judge McIntyre defined occupation as “the seizing and holding of land of the Commonwealth.” She went on to say that “the setting up of the tents, sleepin, and governance on Dewey Square is expressive conduct and symbolic. Nevertheless, it is subject to City and Park regulations and restrictions.” These regulations prohibit sleeping and living. The closest legal camping area is on the Harbor Islands.

In a statement released following the decision, Mayor Thomas M. Menino said, “We are pleased with Judge McIntyre’s strong decision to repeal the restraining order that prohibited the City of Boston from removing the Occupy Boston camp at Dewey Square.” He went on to encourage the protesters to pack up their tents and begin taking down camp.

Protesters do not seem to be moving.

McKennah said that the protesters would continue to occupy Dewey Square despite the ruling. “We’ll get raided here but we’re going to continue to take space.”

“The suggestion that we go to the Harbor Islands is preposterous,” Jacks said. “The reason that we’re here is so that all of these buildings can see us. On the harbor islands no one will see us except for fish and fishermen.”

Stephen Campbell, a protester who has camped in Dewey Square for over a month said, “In my opinion this whole court case and the judges ruling really has no bearing on how the camp operates. A lot of campers that live here actually were against this whole law suit.”

While about 70 protesters signed an affidavit stating under penalty of perjury that they would respect the decision of the court, many protesters refused. “I did not sign the affidavit. That’s just a way to trick the occupiers into getting out of here.”

Campbell said that he was arrested along with over 100 other protesters on his first day in camp when the Boston Police Department raided a second parcel of land that demonstrators attempted to take in an expansion of their camp. He said he has not yet decided if he would be willing to risk being arrested a second time. “I have a large safety network, so I am one of the more privileged encampment members.”

Angela Giudici of Roxbury said that she had concerns about the less fortunate campers that may not have anywhere to go if they are evicted from Dewey Square. She said she and others have been planning to come up with ways to help the homeless members of the camp in the event of an eviction.

“We’ve organized rides for people to go off site. We’ve organized ways to have their belongings tagged and make sure as much as possible that whatever few things that they do have they will be able to keep connected to.” She smiles, shrugs her shoulders, and adds, “Then there’s a matter of really hoping that all the plans work out.”

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