The Big Gallery: Occupy Boston — One month in photos 6

Friday, September 30 — After meeting for a few days in encuentro5 (a space in Chinatown for community and progressive groups), the pioneers of Occupy Boston reached consensus to occupy Dewey Square a week earlier than was initially planned.  Before setting up tents, they joined a protest of 2000-3000 people organized by Right to the City (RTTC) and local unions.  The presence of the Raw Mechanical Orchestra, visiting from NYC for the Honk! Festival in Cambridge and Somerville that weekend, added a cheerful atmosphere despite 24 people being arrested for refusing to leave the lobby of Bank of America headquarters.  Reacting quickly, corporate spokesperson T.J. Crawford called the protest “aggressive public-relations stunts” and asserted that “Bank of America has a lot to be proud of.” Despite the protestors’ refusal to seek permits (“we’re protesting, not camping”), Mayor Menino instructed Boston Police to allow  Occupy Boston to set up their encampment without interference.

Monday, October 3 — After just one weekend, tents devoted to special functions such as medical, logistics, food, sign-making and media were already in place, giving the Occupy Boston encampment a basic form similar to what it has now.  Over the next four weeks, however, many improvements were made as flimsy bowers and makeshift tents were replaced with sturdier, more weather resistant alternatives and the route bisecting camp, called “Main Street” by inhabitants, went from a path of cardboard to a wooden walkway of pallets and plywood elevated inches above the ground.  On October 3, as people bustled around the camp improving things, Ariana Webb, 47, described  “We will stay here as long as necessary. We will stay here through the snows. We’ve started to acquire warm weather gear already. We will be here as long as it takes.”

Saturday, October 8 — Returning from a large march through the city, about two dozen Occupy Boston protestors sat in the doorway of the Federal Reserve with a wall of police and motorcycles separating them from several hundred more supporters in attendance.  At one point, Jeff Nunes, 17, involved with Occupy Boston since its initial meetings at encuentro5, climbed atop the building entrance and waved a homemade flag with an anarchist “A” and the words “no government…true freedom and equality” painted in white on black material.  Tara, a much older woman involved with the protests, began yelling for him to get down but Nunes’ climb was defended by several others as an “autonomous action” in support of the movement.  After several minutes, the smiling Nunes hopped down anyway.  Realizing that there are other ways in and out of the building, and blocking the door indefinitely might not accomplish much, protestors negotiated with police to move their motorcycles and allow them to leave as a group.  Demonstrators then made their first trip to Fanuel Hall and Quincy Market, marching loudly through the interior of both while police and baffled tourists watched passively.

Monday, October 10 — An Occupy Boston protest that began on Boston Common ended with thousands of demonstrators blocking the North Washington Street Bridge that leads from the North End to Charlestown.  One middle-aged man was arrested almost immediately, but police prevented the bulk of the protestors from moving onto the bridge.  After a stand off of over an hour, protestors seemed to accept the police claim that bridge might not support their weight, and left.  The “Battle of the Bridge,” was later viewed as a diversionary tactic, however, as occupiers back at Dewey Square expanded their encampment while police attention was on the bridge.  From there, the mass of protestors rushed back to Dewey Square and formed human chains to protect their tents in both the new camp and the original one.  Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis warned if Occupy Boston didn’t return to its original footprint by midnight, police would act to remove the tents in the new area.

Tuesday, October 11 — Hundreds of law enforcement officials (including Boston, transit and State Police, as well as members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s department) descended upon the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.  They began making arrests around 1:20 a.m. as protestors sang “God Bless America” or chanted slogans such as “this is a peaceful protest” and “the whole world is watching.” Among the 141 people arrested was a Rachel McNeill, an Iraq War vet there with fellow Veterans for Peace members.  She describes, “I was holding the American flag. The rest of the veterans were carrying Veterans for Peace flags. I was standing with arms locked in the center of the line of Iraq and Vietnam veterans. We were the first targeted, knocked down, and dragged away for arrest by police…I saw [the American flag] hit the ground in one video…I am told it was thoroughly trampled by police and it was not returned. It is either now a trophy for some policeman or it is in the trash.”

Friday, October 14 — John Carlos, an athlete much-remembered for displaying a black power salute from the podium at the 1968 Summer Olympics, visited Occupy Boston to speak and sign some books before heading to another engagement at Northeastern University.  Moments later, in one of countless tense moments this month between occupiers and police, two patrolmen prevented men from bringing a wooden pallet onto the site.  The protestors explained the pallet was needed in order to build a safe passage along “Main Street” so people wouldn’t slip in the mud, while the obviously perturbed patrolmen said they wouldn’t allow any more building materials into the campsite (this remains an ongoing conflict).  The following Saturday morning, after rain had subsided, Gov. Deval Patrick visited the Occupy Boston and told Boston Phoenix “…it was fascinating. I met with a couple of the organizers — very thoughtful, responsible people. It’s incredibly well organized…I saw the library and the media tent and the food distribution and logistics — really beautifully organized.”

Friday, October 21 — As many demonstrators were en route to Roxbury to rally with Occupy the Hood, police arrested Issac Bell, 34, and Charlene Dumont, 31 for allegedly selling heroin to an undercover cop in Dewey Square.  After dismantling and searching their tent, police tossed it in a vehicle and removed it from the scene.  Monday, noting Bell’s prior conviction on a drug distribution charge, Assistant DA Matthew Fitzgerald requested his bail be set at $25,000 and Dumont’s at $1,000. Judge Michael Coyne released both on personal recognizance and ordered them to stay away from Occupy Boston.  Bell, who used the nickname “Shorty,” allegedly told the undercover officers that he sold “dope, not crack”   when they tried to buy cocaine from him on Thursday.  The arrest of Bell and Dumont came amid a week of headlines about crime in Dewey Square and fueled a false rumor that someone in camp had lethally overdosed from heroin sold by the pair.

Saturday, October 22 — MIT professor Noam Chomsky, having been rained out of his scheduled appearance on Wednesday, arrived at twilight and was greeted by 1,000 or more people.  Chomsky lectured for about a half hour and answered questions for approximately as long.  While he saw many failures in the modern system, Chomsky identified two — nuclear proliferation and environmental destruction — as the most urgent and warned “everything else won’t matter in a generation or two.” While many close to the front seemed ecstatic to be hearing Chomsky speak, at least half those present couldn’t hear Chomsky despite his use of two hand held microphones.  Acknowledging this difficulty, Chomsky told the audience, “you can see why I’m not a public speaker.  Later in the night, about 100 protestors returned from a march, assembled in the same spot as the October 11 arrests, and held an impromptu general assembly to discuss whether or not to make a stand.  After discussion, however, they retreated back to the established camp.

Sunday, October 23 — About 50 protestors from Occupy Boston took a meandering route from their encampment to “the Pit,” an area in Harvard Square associated with various countercultures over the decades.  En route they stopped to flip the bird at what may be the Beacon Hill townhouse of local Bank of America president Robert E. Gallery, temporarily hung a “We are the 99%” banner from a footbridge over Storrow Drive, blocked traffic one-way on the Mass Ave bridge, and paraded through the Head of the Charles Regatta chanting slogans such as “we got sold out, banks got bailed out” and “this is what democracy looks like.” In Harvard Square, they held a rally where they used the people’s mic to explain the purposes of their protest before talking to people one-on-one.  Deeming their first trip beyond Boston city limits a great success, the group took the Red Line from Harvard Square back to South Station, each person paying their fare.

Tuesday, October 25 — Paul Carnes (a.k.a. Paul Fetch) defended his reputation during one of the most drama-filled General Assemblies of the month.  Previous to this, Occupy Boston’s Financial Accountability Working Group (FAWG) voted unanimously to remove Carnes and Sidney Sherrel “due to their lack of accountability and transparency, as well as their failure to provide information to both the FAWG and Occupy Boston’s General Assembly…[they] also repeatedly failed to follow established procedures for financial expenditures.” At one point, Carnes appeared to be leaving the camp, causing people to sprint after him.  Later, when he sought shelter inside the Info Tent, a few people outside mockingly chanted “who’s peacoat?  Our peacoat!” in reference to a garment thought to be purchased with donations to Occupy Boston.  While maintaining his innocence, Carnes, who has also attracted unfavorable attention at other occupations on the East Coast, remains a subject of derision within the Occupy Boston community.

Thursday, October 27 — A group of supporters left Occupy Boston and walked in the early morning rain to US District Court where Tarek Mehanna, of Sudbury, accused of supporting Al-Qaeda, was starting trial (this photo is from the previous day). Jacob Dinklage, 22, said via the Boston Anarchists Against Militarism (BAAM) announcement list, “The FBI and the Massachusetts US Attorney are accusing Dr. Mehanna of ‘material support for terrorism’ and related charges. His real offense in the eyes of the US government was his courage as a Muslim and a man of conscience: his opposition to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; his vocal support for other Muslims falsely imprisoned by the US government and; his refusal to work as an informant for the FBI in the Muslim community. For these stands he now faces the possibility of life in prison.” Occupy Boston participants had previously shown support for Mehanna in an October 9 rally which drew national criticism from the Far Right.

Sunday, October 30 — Days before, when an unseasonal nor’easter was predicted to hit New England, winterization efforts at Occupy Boston were kicked into high gear.  While Boston didn’t receive as much precipitation as some other parts of Massachusetts, the storm made for a cold and miserable night.  The wet slush  caused a few structures in camp to collapse, but no one froze to death despite the most malicious wishes expressed online by Occupy Boston’s detractors.  The occupation’s supporters, on the other hand, poured out their support for Occupy Boston as it survived the first of what promises to be many “Valley Forge moments.” Those who weathered this slushy snowstorm in the encampment were especially grateful to the woman who got up early and (according to a Facebook post) “donated over $270 worth of hot coffee and a lot, we mean a lot, of pastries/bagels.” Later, Occupy Boston devoted a few midday hours to celebrating its one month anniversary and renewing participants’ commitment to remain encamped (as a movement motto says) “as long as it takes.”