We will be here tomorrow

October 12, 2011

Keith Rosenthal and Elizabeth Schulte report on the brutal police crackdown on Occupy Boston--and the determination of activists to carry on the fight.

POLICE ATTACKED the Occupy Boston encampment in Dewey Square at 1:30 a.m. on October 11, arresting more than 100 peaceful protesters--military veterans among them.

Inspired by the growing Occupy Wall Street protests and encampment that began September 17 to speak out for the "99 percent," the Occupy Boston encampment had been up and running for more than 10 days without coming into conflict with police. This led some activists to conclude that the Boston cops were somehow "friendlier" to the action than their counterparts in New York City, who were caught on video early on pepper-spraying and beating peaceful protesters with batons.

But with their attack on the encampment this week, Boston police have demonstrated just what they're capable of.

The day before the police attack, activists expanded the Boston encampment to a park adjacent to Dewey Square, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, in order to accommodate the growing numbers of people who want to take part in the movement. The police would later cite this expansion as the reason for their attack--in addition to the presence of "anarchists" among the occupiers.

Police arrested more than 100 activists at the Occupy Boston encampment
Police arrested more than 100 activists at the Occupy Boston encampment (Paul Weiskel)

After the arrests, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis told the Boston Herald, "The group [of occupiers] that was here for the first 10 days was working very closely with us, but they warned us yesterday morning that a new group, the anarchists, wanted to take control."

However, before the expansion of the occupied space had even begun, Mayor Thomas Menino was already indicating his growing frustration with the occupation. In the days before Monday's police attack, Menino told the Boston Herald, "There will be a time when they'll have to leave that [Dewey Square] location."

Clearly, the expansion of the occupation was a pretext for the police to begin laying a broader siege.

OCCUPY BOSTON enjoys much support among Bostonians and has won the endorsement of unions such as the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Massachusetts Nurses Association, Greater Boston AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, among others.

Earlier on the day of the arrests, thousands of students from all over Boston joined local union members in solidarity with Occupy Boston, marching through the streets of Boston and onto the Charleston Street Bridge.

What you can do

If you would like more information or would like to help with legal defense, visit the Occupy Boston website.

When marchers got the word that police planned to shut down the expanded section of Occupy Boston, hundreds marched back to defend it, said UMass Boston student and occupier Chris Morrill. Despite police threatening to evict and arrest occupiers, some 500 people remained through most of the night.

Morrill described what happened after the media left and the police came in:

Police in riot gear marched in and formed a perimeter around the park, trapping the people in the encampment inside. As some looked on, the police put on their helmets and got their batons and marched in. There were powerful fluorescent lights, so you could see people as they beat them. It was disgusting.

A contingent from Veterans for Peace was there with their flags, in a line, trying to create a buffer between the occupation and the police. The police pushed the veterans to the ground, stomping on their flags, and took them away as well.

It looked like a bloodbath. Police with batons clad like storm troopers. You could see past the bright lights--people were dragged by their hair or thrown to the ground. One officer was strangling a protester before another officer pulled him off.

Amanda Achin, a UMass Boston student occupier who was arrested, described the brutality of the police:

The people who had been pushed down onto the tents were instantly beaten by the police with their riot sticks, and they were attacking single people with at least three cops at a time. I saw one girl being aggressively arrested by the cops, and she was screaming at the top of her lungs.

I have never seen such intense police brutality. It was so chaotic, people running around everywhere, cameras flashing in every direction, crazy angry cops directing other cops where to go next.

"They really attacked,'' Urszula Masny-Latos, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild's Northeast regional office, told the Boston Globe. "They used force that was completely unnecessary...It was just brutal."

Even though she was wearing a green hat with the words "Legal Observer'' on it, Masny-Latos said she was the second person arrested. "Four officers grabbed me and dragged me,'' she said. "I begged them to stop, [told them that that] they were hurting me. I have no idea why they arrested us with such force.''

As this article was being written, the main encampment in Dewey Square remained intact, with those involved expressing their determination to maintain their presence there. "The experience for the occupation in general has been disorienting to people who witnessed such state repression," Morrill said. "Until now, some people have included the police in the 99 percent. That has definitely been questioned after they've seen cops in riot gear brutalizing protesters."

Afterward, activists organized people to defend the original encampment from attack, and to march to the police precinct, only to find out that the arrestees had been dispersed to precincts all over the city. In the end, they were charged with unlawful assembly.

Many occupiers are more determined than ever, Morrill said. The general assembly after the police attack turned out more people than before. "Many are re-evaluating the role of police in society," Morrill said. "And in general, people are saying, 'We were here yesterday. We are here today. We will be here tomorrow.'"

In the days and weeks to come, activists will have to come together and show their support and solidarity with those who were arrested, and see to it that all charges against them are dropped. The police and local officials will attempt to divide our movement by pitting so-called "bad" anarchists against "good" protesters. We are all together in this fight against economic inequality and corporate greed.

The strength of the Occupy movement lies in the solidarity between all those involved, and this will continue to be the key to the movement's longevity.

"We need to get more workers and more people of color involved in the occupation and to take part in this movement," Morrill said. "Some are saying that we brought on the police repression. That's wrong. We have to defend the occupation--ideologically and in real terms."

Further Reading

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