Occupy Boston: Pre-Eviction

On Thursday, December 8, Mayor Menino announced that he would be evicting Occupy Boston. I heard about it  first on Twitter, where people were upset. Boston was one of the last places an Occupy settlement had not yet been forced out, and a restraining order had been protecting the site from police interference. In the newspapers, the announcement was framed as a success for Menino— finally he would be able to take action against a movement that had “tested his patience.” I got a few emails—the occupiers were demanding that as many people come as possible to support the movement. “You don’t have to get arrested,” they said.

My friend J and I got to the Occupy site around 10 p.m. Most of the tents had been removed, along with anything valuable, so what remained were scattered structures standing in mud. People were picking up trash and putting it into bags; a sanitation truck was parked on the street. On one end of the camp, next to a big building, a large crowd was holding a General Assembly about what to do if arrested. A man was yelling: “The police are violent people! The police don’t have law degrees! Don’t ask the police what to do—they lie!”

We went to  find the protest chaplains, whom J knows. They were standing in a circle, deciding on a plan for the evening. They didn’t want to be arrested, but they wanted to show their support. It was an attractive group—tall men and women wearing white albs and clergymen’s outfits underneath their coats. A few of the members had come from Martha’s Vineyard, and they had that sort of precise, chiseled face that only New England makes. It was concluded that they would sing throughout the evening and bless the eviction as it occurred. A young man wearing a white alb spoke up. “We can say: Boston is watching, America is watching, the whole world is watching, and the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost is watching.”

A marching band made up of old men had been playing in front of the T stop since we arrived. People were dancing in front of it. Members of the media arrived, and began to take pictures of the dancers. The band began playing “Solidarity Forever,” which was written in 1915 and has the same tune as “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,

Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?

Is there anything left to us but to organize and  fight?

For the union makes us strong.

We walked around the camp. At this point, there were maybe 1,000 people. Everywhere, there were camera ashes. Across the street, a group of people were standing in front of an office building, watching. “I am the 99 percent and I want you to leave!” a man shouted.

In the sacred space tent, we took off our shoes and kneeled in front of a small table with books and electric candles. People were dividing up religious books so that they wouldn’t get destroyed. One man took the King James Bible, but there were no takers for a small bamboo garden in a jar. In a corner, a young man was talking about growing up in a Southern Baptist family and began to read the Book of Samuel out loud.

Later that night, after I left, the chaplains married two protestors. The crowd spilled out of the camp and into the streets, marching down Atlantic Avenue at 1 in the morning. Occupy Boston wasn’t evicted that night, but it was the next, when the police arrived at 5 in the morning and arrested 46 people.