Cleanup Begins After Police Evict Protesters; Dozens Arrested
BOSTON — Greenway Conservancy staff members are already replanting shrubs and cleaning up Dewey Square, just hours after police arrested more than 40 Occupy Boston protesters Saturday morning.
In what took just over one hour, more than 100 police officers moved into the square around 5 a.m. to enforce the city’s eviction order, more than 24 hours after a Friday morning deadline.
Mayor Thomas Menino says police chose the time because the fewest protesters were likely to be in Dewey Square.
“It was based on knowledge we had of what’s happened in prior evenings and we figured that they had their activities until 1 a.m. in the morning, 2 a.m. in the morning,” the mayor said.
Nancy Brennan, director of the conservancy, said restoration costs will be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
“We also have received spontaneous offers of contributions from private individuals. We appreciate that very much. I think we’ll need it,” Brennan said.
Brennan said the conservancy has guidelines about what hours the park is open and a process for people to use the space, “to really make the land generally available to all kinds of groups, regardless of their political message. It’s really important to use the land fairly.”
Police arrested 46 people — 32 males and 14 females — when they refused to leave the Occupy camp, linking arms and chanting.
As police worked to clear the street, protesters chanted, “This is what democracy looks like.”
Addressing reporters shortly after the eviction, Boston Police Superintendent William Evans said the detained protesters “wanted to be arrested,” but the overall eviction process was “peaceful.”
“The several dozen that we arrested will be charged with trespassing, after being given several warnings to leave the premises before they were arrested. Several were also arrested for locking arms and resisting arrest,” Evans said.
“Most of them we dealt with over the last two months, so it didn’t surprise me — at least the people that we were dealing with — that it went very peaceful,” he said. “There was a certain element here that we might’ve had trouble, but that element really didn’t show up.
“Our operational plan went very orderly, very methodical. Nobody was injured and there was no confrontation whatsoever.”
Menino said the time had come to dismantle the camp.
“I think we have to look at this whole movement — they had a powerful movement — but the way they were going about it, it wasn’t good for public safety issues, and we just decided that the time has come, and with a court order in hand we had the authority to ask them to leave peacefully,” Menino told WBUR.
While many of the protesters moved out of the encampment in the hours leading up to the midnight deadline to leave, others said they were not expecting the large police presence early Saturday morning.
“We had a very pleasant feeling in the air. We didn’t think we were going to get raided this morning, and when the police showed up en masse we were kind of surprised,” said John Stephen Dwyer, a protester from Jamaica Plain.
“Based on the fact that they did have several officers there on the ground, they came in with an overwhelming, unnecessary show of force,” said Dan Guarracino of Brookline.
Eighteen-year-old David Irish, from Maine, said he had lived in the encampment since day one. He dropped the lease on his apartment and his quit job to live in Dewey Square. He said he will do everything he can to “keep this going.”
“It sucks. That’s my home right now. I dropped everything that I had to be in this camp and the cops just took it away from me. I’m going to fight for my home back,” Irish said.
Other Occupy Boston protesters also plan to continue the movement.
“While Dewey Square might be cleared out this morning, it’s pretty clear to most people watching that Occupy Boston and the Occupy movement in general isn’t going to be going away,” said Carol Rose, head of the Massachusetts ACLU, which has worked on behalf of the Occupy protesters.
“We’ll have to confer with our clients to see if they want to try to head back to court with regard to the eviction itself. It depends on how the police behave and what actually happens in terms of the nature of the arrests.”
But Rose agrees with Boston police that the relationship between protesters and Boston Police has been respectful.
“There’s just no question that Boston has been a model city in a lot of ways — both for the movement itself, which has been peaceful and nonviolent, for the fact that the police and the Occupy protesters have been able to be mutually respectful for the most part,” she said.
The city set a deadline for midnight Thursday for the protesters to abandon their encampment at Dewey Square in the city’s financial district.
Protesters first began occupying the site on Sept. 30. As of early Friday, only about 40 protesters and 35 tents remained, covering less than half the area the protest once did.
On their website, Occupy Boston organizers said they will hold a general assembly meeting on Boston Common at 7 p.m. Saturday. Police said they will monitor the meeting.
The WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press contributed to this report.