Judge Delays Decision On Occupy Boston

By Phillip Martin

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Dec. 1, 2011


BOSTON — At a packed hearing on the 10th floor of Suffolk Superior Court, lawyers for Occupy Boston argued on constitutional grounds on Dec. 1 for an injunction against the City of Boston to prevent it from acting preemptively to evict the activists camped out in Dewey Square.
 
The city’s principal witness was fire marshal Bart Shay, who said he was “disturbed about what he saw in the camp.” He described fire hazards that included newspapers and other items stuffed between tents, cigarettes throughout the camp, flammable blue tarps, piles of clothing and the camp library.
 
The attorney for Occupy Boston — which is represented by the National Lawyers Guild — suggested that the fire marshal had come into the camp twice, on Nov. 14 and 29, with his mind already made up. He also asked whether Shay had ever addressed the Occupy’s General Assembly meetings about the concerns that he expressed in court. Their lead attorney said that the residents had tried to upgrade to winter tents, which are safer, but said that the police prevented them from doing so.
 
Robbie Lesser, a camper who was in the courtroom, thought that city used concerns over health and safety as a smokescreen and rationale for eviction. He also thought that the city seemed genuinely perplexed about how to communicate with the Occupy movement, saying, “It seems like the city is having a hard time wrapping its mind around this leaderless idea.”
 
Lesser was referring to the Occupy movement’s practice of decision-making by consensus of all participants during General Assembly meetings.
 
From the very beginning of the Occupation of Dewey Square, mayor Thomas Menino has expressed agreement with the message of the movement. But he said that the city should be able to exercise the legal prerogative to clear out the tents and campers, if it so desired.
 
Though the mayor said he has no plans to evict the campers, lawyers for the city presented arguments and witnesses to bolster its case for lifting the injunction that went into effect in mid-November.
 
Suffolk Superior Court judge Frances McIntyre, however, extended her temporary order of mid-November until she issues a final decision sometime around Dec. 15. The Occupy Movement activists left the courtroom on Thursday chalking up what they believed to be another legal victory, at least in the short run.



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