100 arrested as police shut down second OccupyBoston protest site

It's almost as if the protesters are having trouble making enough trouble to be noticed

The OccupyWallStreet protesters caught a break yesterday from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said they can stay where they are "indefinitely."

The "99%" movement's nearest big-city spinoff, OccupyBoston, however, wasn't so lucky.

About 100 were arrested after refusing to abandon a second protest site on which they built a tent city while most of the police who had been preventing the expansion were trying to keep the main body of protesters from blocking traffic on the nearby Charlestown Bridge, a major commuter way.

Early this morning approximately 700 Boston police moved in to break up the secondary settlement, built by a group of about 300 protesters who had been warned by police and by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino not to set up house on the parks and pedestrian walkways along Atlantic Ave. – a primary artery for both commuter and tourist traffic into the city.

Police surrounded the Atlantic Ave. site during the early evening, warning pedestrians, drivers and protesters that they were going to evict the group sometime that night.

So it was no surprise when police moved in around 1:30 a.m., first ordering the group to leave, then pulling down tents and arresting resisters when they refused.

About 100 people were arrested, mostly for trespassing, according to police.

“They just ripped the group open, and went for our tents,” 21-year-old Nicholas Hassell told the Boston Herald. “They shouldn’t be doing this. We have the right to exercise our freedom of speech.”

“It’s unacceptable,” agreed Anasstassia Baichorova, 27, “We have the freedom of assembly.”

Both things are true, but not without limits, according to police.

Civil disobedience that's almost too polite

The main OccupyBoston protest site is still in place, undisturbed by police, in Dewey Square, near the city's financial district. Protesters have been there for 10 days, relatively undisturbed, after agreeing to limit the sit-in to one location.

In New York, OccupyWallStreet has had to tread much more carefully to keep from being driven out – not erecting tents for shelter, not appearing to live on the site and not disturbing traffic.

By contrast, OccupyBoston had a pretty easy time of it.

There have been no riots, no pepper spray, no local demagogues trying to usurp the protest for their own purposes.

Even the police and mayor have been fairly supportive.

"The group that was here for the first ten days was working very closely with us,” Boston Police Commissioner Edward said during a press conference. "They warned us yesterday morning that a new group, the anarchists, wanted to take control."

"I agree with them on the issues," Menino told the Boston Globe. "Foreclosure. Corporate greed. These are issues I’ve been working on my entire career. But you can’t tie up a city."

"You are going to end up getting locked up for trespassing and unlawful assembly," a Boston Police supervisor announced on a bullhorn minutes before police moved in. "This is our last notice before we move in and clear the park. Now is the time to move, or you're going to be subject to arrest."

The result was just as chaotic as any mass arrest and or crowd suppression, but there were no reports of beatings, pepper spray or police quoted beforehand saying they couldn't wait to get their hands on protesters, as has been the case in New York.

Real "anarchists," or red herring?

If the main protest group was angry about "the anarchists" who were taking control of the protest, it didn't show in the rhetoric it used to announce that "Boston Police Brutally Assault Occupy Boston."

"Dozens of police vans descended on the Greenway, with batons drawn, assaulting protesters and arresting more than one-hundred people. Members of Veterans for Peace carrying American flags were pushed to the ground and their flags trampled as the police hauled them away. – OccupyBoston, Oct. 11, 2011

The announcement complains that the police commissioner didn't mention during his press conference that the group staged a major protest march that, with support from Boston's unions and a number of veterans groups, managed to put between 5,000 and 10,000 people on the street, marching from Boston Common to Dewey Square.

The march – which put between 5,000 and 10,000 people on the street as part of an announcement of support from a range of Boston unions and veterans organizations – was the biggest even in Boston's Occupation so far.

But OccupyBoston didn't mention in its release that police had been asking them all along to stick to one site, chasing would-be settlers away from the Greenway parks along Atlantic Ave. (partly to prevent damage to $150,000 worth of shrubs recently planted there, however banal that seems), and asking the actual settlers along Atlantic Ave. to move back to the Dewey Square long before the crackdown.

The Boston Police Department even tweeted @OccupyBoston Monday night: "The BPD respects your right to protest peacefully. We ask for your ongoing cooperation."

The march was analogous to the union-supported march in New York last week that ended up in violence after most of the unions had packed up and gone home, and groups of other protesters fought police in an attempt to get to City Hall.

Can you hear us now?

In Boston's case the attempt to tie-up traffic on the Charlestown Bridge did not result in the kind of violence reported in New York, but did distract the attention of police long enough for a splinter group to set up shop.

It's not clear whether the second site was occupied by some secondary group of more aggressive schismatics, while the main portion of the leaderless congregation stayed in place in Dewey Square, or if "the anarchists" were just part of the main group's effort to make its protest more visible.

Either way the Occupation of Boston had been relatively peaceful to the extent that, even to media and residents of the area, it had been nearly invisible.

It's still not the LA riots of 1989. It's not even OccupyWallStreet. Even in conservatively left-wing Boston – which tolerates protest of any kind as long as it's properly permitted and regulated – it's not invisible any more.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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