OCCUPY ACROSS THE U.S.: Police don't allow cold weather supplies at Boston protest

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 | 3:00 p.m. CST; updated 5:28 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Editor's note: Missourian reporters visiting their homes during the week of Thanksgiving caught up with Occupy movements in those cities. This is one of six dispatches from the Occupy movement across the country.

BOSTON — In Dewey Park, Occupy Boston protestors and city officials have been playing cat-and-mouse games.

"Cops will search supplies and vehicles for what they call contraband," Kevin Maley, an Occupy Boston volunteer, said. Police maintain a 24/7 presence and don't allow cold-weather tents and other winter supplies into the camp, which is a patchwork of several dozen shelters topped with gray, green, red and blue tarps.

To get around the blockade, protestors need to be stealth.  "A tent for the all-women living quarters was not allowed because it was winterized," Maley said. "We brought it in under the darkness of night."

"The next day cops staring at the tent looked annoyed," he said.

Maley thinks the city's "embargo" is designed to freeze protestors out of the square this winter, as an alternative to physically evicting them.

Boston Police Department spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said police were trying to prevent "building materials" from entering the camp for safety reasons.

A November article by Open Media Boston said police only allow donations of food and clothing to enter the camp. 

With the help of the ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild and the local law firm Todd & Weld, protestors have gone to court claiming that the First Amendment forbids police from evicting them or removing their tents.

On Nov. 16, the Superior Court of Suffolk County granted Occupy Boston protestors a temporary restraining order against the City of Boston until at least Dec. 1, when the court holds its first hearing on the case.

As a condition to hearing those claims, the judge required at least 50 protestors to sign affidavits promising to abide by the court's decision in the case. Whether remaining protestors will obey an unfavorable order is unclear.

"We came here knowing it was an act of civil disobedience," Maley said. "It's up to every individual" to decide "whether you are willing to go to jail for something you believe in."

The signatures are to show the judge that Occupy Boston was committed to the process, Maley said. At the same time, he said, Occupy Boston has no intention of evacuating. "We're down here as long as it takes."

According to Maley, "we" means about 250 protestors, volunteers and homeless individuals around Dewey Square at any given time. "We" also means Boston Occupy's general assembly, which live-streams its meetings every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m. CT.

Some volunteers permanently live in the park, while others come and go according to work schedules. Maley himself is employed at a nonprofit during the week and volunteers between shifts.

He explains some of the goals of the Occupy movement at an info tent in Dewey Park, where visitors come with questions. He lists off policy reforms supported by most Boston protestors, who were recently surveyed by the camp's newspaper, The Boston Occupier.

Mike Mazor, a Vietnam Veteran visiting the Boston-area for Thanksgiving, listens to  Maley's explanation unconvinced.

Mazor said he wants to support the movement, but "I need something, a common goal ... otherwise, I feel the Occupy movement is taking a shotgun to the situation instead of aiming at a clear target."

Unfazed by Mazor's skepticism, Maley launches into another explanation about reforming hedge fund taxation and regulating Wall Street bankers.

When Mazor leaves a few minutes later, Maley confided that he would like to have talked to the veteran for another hour. Eliminating apathy is Maley's goal.

"There are people who stop in, and I have a conversation with them, and they leave kind of radicalized," Maley said.

Next: Occupy Cedar Valley

Previous: Occupy across the U.S.

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