From the Anti-Violence Project of Massachusetts
Dear Mayor Menino:
The Anti-Violence Project of Massachusetts strongly opposes any police operations against the “Occupy Boston”
protestors encamped in Dewey Square. Coverage of the police action to clear the Rose Kennedy Greenway in the early morning hours of Tuesday, October 11, 2011 has cast an unflattering light upon the City, leading some to suggest—unfairly—that the Cradle of Liberty is hostile to peaceful assemblies. Given the increased citizen participation in and media scrutiny of the Occupy Boston protests since Tuesday, ugly images of police officers confronting large numbers of peaceful demonstrators would tarnish the City’s reputation. In no way should Boston invite comparisons with, e.g., the Chicago Police Department’s move against anti-war protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
There is no public policy justification for further police operations against the demonstrators in Dewey Square. The gathering is peaceful. Their activities do not disturb the life of the City nor do they interfere with the conduct of everyday business. Nothing transpiring in Dewey Square is disrupting traffic or commerce. The Occupy Boston presence in Dewey Square does not rise to the level of a common law nuisance. While the merits of the protestors’ policy prescriptions are subject to debate, there can be no doubt that they are contributing to a public dialogue of great importance to the city, state, and country. The Occupy Boston protestors are engaged in core political speech, with undeniable First Amendment value. Generalized assertions about maintenance of public order provide no justification for governmental action against political expression in a democracy.
The Anti-Violence Project was deeply troubled by these remarks attributed to you at http://www.boston.com/community/blogs/gatekeeper/2011/10/mayor_bpd_need_to_get_their_st.html?p1=News_links
: “There is a time and place at which we have to end the encampment, and that time and place will come in the near future ….” Absent violence or disruptive behavior, sending police officers against the Dewey Square demonstrators would serve merely to inflame tensions. Wider public controversy over the use of governmental force against citizens peaceably assembled for political purposes is not in the City’s best interests.
Accordingly, the Anti-Violence Project calls on you and the Boston Police Department to refrain from undertaking any police action to extirpate peaceful demonstrators from Dewey Square.
Don Gorton, Chairperson
Cc: Commissioner Ed Davis