After Setback, Occupy Boston Vows Expansion

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Occupy Boston protester Sean Eason reads Noam Chomsky in the camp's library tent. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)
Occupy Boston protester Sean Eason reads Noam Chomsky in the camp's library tent. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)

One day after the arrests of 141 Occupy Boston participants, the protest group is trying to figure out what to do next. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino strongly hinted Tuesday that the group has overstayed its welcome at Dewey Square. But the police crackdown comes at a time when interest in the group is only growing.

What started out 12 days ago as a visually underwhelming smattering of tents tucked beneath Boston office towers has slowly grown into more of a small village of dense nylon.

Now there’s a town soapbox. The camp also features a library tent, where protester Sean Eason has installed bookshelves.

"We’ve got some really cool stuff here, everything from Tolkien to politics, history," Eason said.

And on Tuesday there was even a string quartet.

As he sat cross-legged listening to the music, Eddy Martinez ate a bowl of beans from the kitchen tent. A phone number for the lawyers’ guild was scribbled on his arm. He did that in case he was arrested the night before. But he wasn’t. He had locked arms with other protesters around this original camp, not around the next open spot on the Greenway, where fellow protesters had pitched tents only a few hours before.

"Going to the new spot, well, the reason is we need more room. Personally I think it was kind of a rash decision," Martinez said.

Rash, Martinez said, because he said some protesters moved there without him and many others knowing about it. Still he supported the move, even though police had warned the group not to.

"They did say fairly explicitly that they didn’t want us to move over there, but when you kind of step back and look at it, it’s like: all right, why exactly? It seems kind of arbitrary that they would let us have this part and not that part," he said.

Greenway maintenance workers clean up the area where Occupy Boston members were forcibly removed by police. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)
Greenway maintenance workers clean up the area where Occupy Boston members were forcibly removed by police. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)

"That part" was newly landscaped last fall, and on Tuesday Greenway maintenance workers raked the area and picked up garbage. They cut a few perennials that had gotten trampled. Still, the news of the failed expansion to this spot, and the late night police action, brought even more people to the Occupy Boston camp Tuesday. When visitor Dorothy Allen stopped by and saw a welcome sign with the number to the mayor’s office, she pulled out her cellphone and dialed it, reaching a staffer on the other end.

"Yeah, what are you doing telling people to go away? They’re voicing their views. Who does the mayor think he is?" Allen said into the phone.

"Grass? He’s protecting grass? Has he lost his bonkers?"

Occupy Boston is trying to build on the sympathy and the publicity and the growing interest. But the capacity problem remains. The Dewey Square encampment is basically out of space. Tents are packed in so close they share the same stakes.

One idea is to move to Boston Common. Protester Dan Paluska has another idea: he wants people to occupy many other small spaces, like churches and colleges.

"You know, thinking like grass, thinking like ants. Thinking smaller rather than thinking bigger is the way that we spread," Paluska said.

That’s just one of the ideas that protesters mulled over as as they regrouped from the police action that basically boxes them in. Another protester, Philip Anderson, said a decision on where to spread won’t happen overnight, but it won’t be long either.

"By necessity we have to expand. We crossed this street and apparently there was this line in the sand there that the police didn’t want us crossing, even though it was just a continuance of the public park. And so I think right now the air has a little tension, a little excitement, people are looking for the next step," Anderson said.

At the same time that Occupy Bostonians are deciding where to welcome their new followers, they’re also digging in. A banjo player plucked away like he has all the time in the world. And a new committee on winterizing held its first meeting -– to talk about how to keep the camp as the months grow cold.

This program aired on October 12, 2011.

Curt Nickisch Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.



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