'Occupy Boston' Demonstrators Bring Wall Street Protests North

By Phillip Martin

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Oct. 3, 2011

Protestors demonstrated outside of Boston's Federal Reserve building this weekend. (Phillip Martin/WGBH)

 

BOSTON — Boston officials are warning commuters Monday that demonstrators may take to the streets in a series of protests that could snarl downtown traffic.
 
Calling themselves Occupy Boston, the protests are an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protests now in their third week in New York City. They continue to camp out at this hour in Boston’s Dewey Square in the heart of the city’s financial district. Police over the weekend made several arrests in a related demonstration blocks away.

A demonstrator is seen at the Occupy Boston protests in Boston this weekend. (Phillip Martin/WGBH)

After more than 2000 demonstrators took to Boston’s streets over the weekend, dozens remain camped out in tents in a park facing the city’s Federal Reserve Building. Occupy Boston organizers say they watched while many demonstrators protesting financial policies on Wall Street were arrested, and decided to act here.

Emerging from a lean-to in Dewey Square, UMass graduate student Michael Spinato said he hoped the local protest movement will wake people up.

“People in this country are going to realize that they cannot live the way that they dreamed of living or want to live or have those comforts of everyday life. And they’re going to see where the money is going to, the huge inequality of wealth that’s out there right now, and they’re going to understand that it’s not right,” Spinato said.

The largely non-violent demonstrations in Boston, like those in New York, were inspired by a Canadian magazine called Ad-busters. On Friday, hundreds in a coordinated demonstration blocked entrances to Bank of America Headquarters to protest foreclosures. Police arrested 24 of them.

Occupy Boston demonstrators cite specific concerns such as the failure of the Justice Department to bring to justice those responsible for the nation’s financial collapse and the housing foreclosure crisis that swept across working and middle-class America, among other issues.
 
The predominantly young protestors say their overarching concern is fast-growing economic inequality. Grace Tresige is an attorney.

“The reason I’m here is because I’m part of a generation that isn’t capable of achieving the American Dream. And it seems that no matter what steps you take, there’s always a new wall,” Tresige said.

At one point over the weekend, hundreds of protestors crossed Atlantic Avenue and confronted a phalanx of police in front of the Federal Reserve. But MBTA police detective Mark Gillespie said police were determined not to let the situation get out of hand, as it did in New York, when hundreds of protestors were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge.

A woman demonstrates at Occupy Boston this weekend. Her t-shirt reads, "Young, poor and screwed." (Phillip Martin/WGBH)

“We weren’t taking our sticks out. We weren’t putting our riot helmets on. We were trying to deal with this very calmly and maturely. Talking to anyone that would walk by us and not ignoring them,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie said he understood what the protestors are doing.

“They had some good gripes. Some gripes I have. And when they went to the door of the Federal Reserve Bank they knew they were dealing with the same police officers. The ones that were calm, that weren’t jumpy that didn’t overreact, and these are the ones that have to protect the front door of the Federal Reserve Bank,” Gillespie said.

Demonstrators had earlier come to an agreement with police not to rally in front of the Federal Reserve Building, but Boston-area resident Dan McLaughlin said there could not be a better symbol of their collective anger.

“They get pretty touchy the closer you get to this building, but this is probably the best place to make the focus clear about the way the federal government has behaved with the resources the people give them,” McLaughlin said.
 
Organizers say the Boston occupation and related protests will continue throughout the week.

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