Dec. 7, 2011
U.S. Senate debates usually focus on jobs, taxes and foreign policy. But Tuesday night's Democratic debate at Stonehill College turned on a very local issue.
The liveliest moment of the debate, which was co-sponsored by WGBH, came when the five Democrats who want to take on Sen. Scott Brown were asked a yes-or-no question: Should Occupy Boston, while fighting for a more permanent encampment in Boston, be allowed to build a winterized tent?
Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren walked a fine line in her answer.
"Everyone has to follow the law, including the people on Wall Street," Warren said.
"But is that yes or no? It’s a yes or no question," asked the debate moderator.
"That is the answer. Everyone has to follow the law," Warren said.
Immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco blasted Warren for her response.
"When you say everyone has to follow the law, it actually bothers me because it makes a presumption that people are breaking the law," DeFranco said.
"No it doesn’t!" answered Warren.
"It does! Let me finish. And you know what, Rosa Parks broke the law," DeFranco continued. "There is such a thing as a tradition in the country called civil disobedience."
Warren's carefully constructed answer followed weeks of Republican attacks, particularly in campaign ads that label Warren as radical and extreme in her support for the Occupy movement.
While Warren played it safe in answering the Occupy Boston tent issue, after the debate, she denied offering the Occupy movement only tepid support.
"The point is that I have been protesting wall street for years now and there are lots of ways to do that," Warren said. "I’ve been protesting Wall Street pretty aggressively out here and that’s why I want to go to the United States Senate." When pressed by reporters as to whether the Occupiers should be allowed to stay in Dewey Square, Warren still wouldn't answer yes or no.
All five candidates, including Tom Conroy, a three-term state representative, software engineer Herb Robinson, and attorney Jim King said they oppose the state's new casino gambling law. And on a light note, they all flubbed a Boston Red Sox question — all except King. "In what years — plural — did the Red Sox win the World Series in this century?" the moderator asked.
"Four and seven," answered King.
"Four and seven! You got it!" said the moderator.