The recent early-morning arrests of 141 peaceful Occupy Boston demonstrators, including 50 members of Veterans for Peace, has put Boston Mayor Tom Menino at the center of controversy. The Massachusetts arrests followed the Occupy Wall Street arrests in New York the week earlier.
Numerous onlookers recorded the bust on video cameras and cell phones sending the images around the world on the internet and generating outrage at the police action. The night scenes captured on video have generated considerable sympathy and support for the protestors. Up until a recent court decision such activity would have not been permitted as Boston Police asserted anti-wiretap laws against anyone filming police arrests.
Mayor Menino, now starting to resemble Chicago’s Mayor Daley of the 1968 Democratic Convention “police riot” has defended the arrests. Menino said the peaceful demonstrators shouldn’t be allowed to “tie up the city” and claims he supports the message of Occupy Boston.
In 2004, when Boston hosted the Democratic Convention, the city became a fortified gathering place with a pen for demonstrators away from key locations. Police paraded around in riot gear and drove around in an armored personnel carrier.
While 1968 Chicago had the flower children, the issue in 2011 Boston was trampling the flowers although the rough and tumble arrests by Boston Police ended up smashing more flowers then the protestors may have stepped on. The protestors, camped out in a small downtown park, were a long way from tying up the city despite Menino’s claims. Occupy Boston organizers had instructed demonstrators to respect commuters and the encampment was noisy but orderly.
After the post-midnight sweep by police the order was given to clear the demonstrators’ belonging. Suddenly tents, backpacks, political signs, sleeping bags, and personal belongings including cell phones and personal identification were grabbed up and deposited in a garbage truck. Meanwhile the property owners were being locked in jail and held without meals.
As in New York, the police response to the Occupy demonstrators has fueled local anti-Wall Street sentiment. Boston, long the home to the struggles of labor and working people, was once again a vision of police power being used to stifle dissent. The arrests threaten to tarnish Menino’s liberal credentials much like the Democratic Convention melee forever marked Richard Daley as a tyrant.
The Occupy Boston arrestees pleaded not-guilty and the prosecution of the demonstrators will keep the fire stoked and also keep Tom Menino on the hot seat.