Noelle Swan

Occupy Boston Protesters Staged a Peaceful Last Stand on Dewey Square

Noelle Swan
New England Post
December 9, 2011
 

Occupy Boston protesters dismantled their encampment yesterday but vowed to continue the movement. “We’ve always been greater than our tents,” said development planner Rita Sebastian, a protester from Cape Cod.

Thousands of protesters converged on Dewey Square prepared to face off with Boston Police. The awaited clash never came. Instead, a spirited rally surrounded the park, lined the sidewalk in front of Federal Reserve building, and eventually spilled onto Atlantic Avenue.

The Boston Police Department had distributed fliers early in the evening warning protesters that anyone remaining in Dewey Square after midnight would be subject to arrest and charges of unlawful assembly and trespassing.

By midnight, thousands surrounded the park: protest chaplains, iron workers, Quaker friends, and college students.

For much of the night, Atlantic Avenue served as a dividing line between those prepared to face arrest in defense of the square. That line vanished in a flash as dancers leaped into the street, stopping traffic and prompting police to block off the road. Several protesters sat down in the middle of the road and were immediately swarmed by cameras. White flags carried by the Veterans for Peace wafted gently in the breeze over their heads.

Soon the street became a frenzied yet joyous mosh pit. Bouncing protesters chanted, “Ain’t no power but the power of the people, ‘cause the power of the people don’t stop,” to an intensifying drum beat.

In an instant, the crowd stopped as someone shouted “mic check,” the now trademark cue to listen up, and announced that Superintendent William Evans of the Boston Police Department had announced to television crews that no arrests would be made that night.

The crowd roared with approval, but some remained skeptical.

“They’re probably waiting for people to leave before they move in,” called one protester. “Don’t trust the police,” yelled another.

Member of Occupy Boston safety team, Steve O’Brien said, “You never know with them. You really can’t rely on what they say. They could be waiting this out until the crowd dies down.” O’Brien said that he had spent 59 nights at Dewey square and intended to make it 60 nights.

A few individual protesters carried a couple tents into the street. Other protesters approached the loudest of these men, whose face was shrouded in black and warned him that this was a provocative move and would likely end in his arrest. He replied in a scorched voice, “This is my autonomous protest.” Police eventually arrested two people inside one of those tents.

By the end of the night, only a few tents remained on the square surrounded by mud. One of the first tents erected, known as the faith and spirituality tent, sheltered two sleeping protester bundled up in sleeping bags. News crews packed up and supporters headed for home.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Thomas M. Menino issued a deadline of midnight Thursday night for protesters to strike their camp in Dewey Square. The order came less than 24 hours after Superior Court Judge Judith A. McIntyre ruled the occupation of Dewey Square as “a hostile act” subject to regulations of the City of Boston and the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy charged with caring for Dewey Square.

The protesters had enjoyed protection from total eviction for three weeks under a temporary restraining order. On Wednesday, Judge McIntyre lifted that restraining order and denied the protesters request for a preliminary injunction. Throughout the legal process, Mayor Menino maintained that there were not plans to clear the camp. As news broke of Judge McIntyre’s decision, issued a statement saying that he was pleased that the Judge opted to empower the city to remove the protesters as needed and urged campers to depart camp voluntarily.

When the request became an order, protesters began dismantling many of their larger tents and moving them offsite. Many tents, tarps, signs, and equipment were loaded into waiting vans along Atlantic Avenue. Others were fed into a trash compacter truck. Still, discarded blankets, boards, sleeping bags, kitchen tools, and a myriad of other objects remained strewn about the site lending an air of a flea market.

Many individual protesters vowed to stay on site until forcibly removed by the police although they almost uniformly asked not to be quoted saying so. One woman dressed as a Wall Street banker in a pinstripe suit, bowler hat, and monocle said that she came to Dewey that night with the express purpose of defending the camp, even if it meant being arrested. “I’ve been here since the beginning and all the hard work that I’ve put into this movement and all of the people that I have worked with and all of the deep wounds that have happened because of Wall Street make it absolutely worth it.”

A few hundred protesters gathered throughout the evening for a meeting to rally together and to discuss how the group would proceed. One woman passionately addressed the shivering crowd, “We’re going to rise from the rubble and tomorrow come back better, stronger, and wiser!”

Various working groups announced future meetings and made plans to continue their work offsite. Members from neighboring Occupy sites in Worcester, Harvard, Boston University expressed their support and solidarity with Occupy Boston.

Occupy librarian, John Ford proposed that protesters clear most of the tents, lay tarps in the mud, and host a dance party. Several protesters objected vehemently. “Now is not a time for celebration,” said one woman. Lengthy debate ensued.

While the group gathered by the main stage area became increasingly mired in the consensus process, others voted with their feet. All around the camp, individual volunteers pulled on rubber gloves grabbed trash bags and attempted to clean the site. Despite their efforts, the mud is scattered with debris.

When they first set up camp in late September, protesters had promised to care for the park and leave it in the state they found it in. They started a collection to replant the grass once they left. According to protester K. Eric Martin, a prominent member of movement, protesters have raised $5000 so far to restore the park. He added that he would be bringing a proposal to the  community to make up the additional $8,000 needed from Occupy Boston’s $50,000 coffers.

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