BOSTON — Approximately three dozen protesters remain Friday of the once-hundreds that used to occupy Dewey Square.
Protesters are figuring out what to do next after Boston Police did not evict demonstrators from their Dewey Square campsite overnight, despite Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s announcement Thursday that they had until midnight to voluntarily leave the camp.
Occupy Boston member Noah McKenna says that confrontation may be inevitable and a positive outcome for the protesters.
“We will hopefully get a couple hundred arrests,” McKenna said. “Arresting peaceful protesters when the knowledge of the criminal [activity] in the financial sector is so widespread is really powerful.”
Menino said he’s keeping a close eye on protesters in Dewey Square Friday.
“We’ve worked really well with these protesters,” Menino said. “I’m not going to have a city that’s going to blow up and have people using tear gas and beating on people. That’s not our standard in Boston.”
BPD Superintendent William Evans delivered the notice to cheering demonstrators just after 1 a.m. Friday.
WBUR’s Bianca Vazquez Toness reported protesters are predicting BPD will move into the encampment over the next few days, and are discussing options.
Occupy Boston protesters say their movement will continue, even if they’re not at Dewey Square. Meanwhile, occupier Steven Squibb said they plan to buy ad space in Boston newspapers on Monday.
“This movement will continue, it’s not going anywhere, it’s going to be here for a very long time, whether we are physically located in Dewey or otherwise,” Squibb said.
Some demonstrators are considering moving into a building, including foreclosed homes or shut-down schools, while others think it’s silly to spend the time and effort on an outdoor camp now that it’s winter.
Occupy Boston member John Dwyer says there is a bright side to the impending eviction.
“A lot of our energy goes to just keeping the camp running,” Dwyer said. “Now that the possibility that we won’t have a physical encampment is sort of looming on us, presumably, we’ll have more energy to devote to getting our message out there.”
As far as when police plan to evict the protesters, Evans said, “We’re going to work with them, I know the mayor’s always worked with them, he’s been great, and hopefully over the next couple of hours, over the next day, they’ll move out voluntarily and leave on a high note. Because no one wins if people get hurt and people get arrested.”
Police showed restraint overnight Thursday, and the atmosphere was festive as protesters chanted and played music.
As many as 1,000 people flooded Dewey Square leading up to the midnight ultimatum to clear out. When it became clear that police weren’t making any moves, the crowd burst into the street, blocking Atlantic Avenue, singing and drumming.
Police arrested two people overnight for not leaving a tent they’d moved into the street.
“We didn’t want to make any arrests, but that was their goal, they refused to come out, even the Occupy Boston people were trying to tell them to come out,” Evans said. “But symbolically they wanted to be arrested. We had to clear the streets, so they were arrested.”
Protesters rallied through Menino’s midnight deadline, overflowing Dewey Square.
“As long as we’re here having a party, they’re going to have a hard time crushing us down. And we’re going to do that every night this weekend,” said protester Stephanie Fail overnight.
Menino’s deadline followed Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre’s rejection Wednesday of the protesters’ request to ban the city from removing them. The judge said the protesters have no First Amendment right “to seize and hold” the park where they are camping, and must abide by city regulations.
“The court order’s very specific that they’re breaking the regulations of the [Greenway] conservancy and they don’t have the right to be there,” Menino said Thursday morning.
Throughout the day Thursday, protesters packed up certain tents and belongings and had them hauled away. They were given an official notice of trespass Thursday evening that said they could not remain on Dewey Square past midnight.
The director of the Massachusetts ACLU, Carol Rose, said midnight was not enough time for people who want to leave. She also said police shouldn’t converge on protesters in the middle of the night.
“We can do better than that here in Boston,” Rose said. “We don’t have to do it just because they did it in places like Oakland and New York.”
Occupy Boston held a lengthy general assembly Thursday night on eviction. Among other measures, demonstrators agreed on “autonomous action,” meaning they’d have no common action if police moved in. A suggestion to clear the park and hold a dance party was not approved.
Though there was no dance party, a brass band played and protesters chanted up to and through midnight. WBUR’s Curt Nickisch, from Dewey Square, reported “sounds of Occupy Boston: ‘We are the 99 percent’ chants, ‘Rock Of Ages,’ ‘This Land is Your Land,’ a marching band, helicopters.”
Early Thursday, Menino said public interest was behind his decamp deadline.
“I’ve always said from day one … that we are not going to tolerate any violation of public safety and there are some concerns down there about public safety,” he said.
Protesters tweaked the mayor’s depiction.
“I believe that there are public safety concerns down here,” said demonstrator Ariel Oshinsky. “I believe that it is an excuse to clear our encampment and silence our message. I think if the city had wanted this to be a safe and sanitary encampment, there’s a lot they would have done differently.”
Menino did offer some support the Occupy movement, even as he set the midnight deadline.
“There is a reason for a movement like that, but they never came down with a specific issue or one specific reason and they changed every day and I think it’s important that we try to carry those issues forward, but not on Dewey Square,” Menino said.