A diverse crowd of protestors gathered Friday afternoon on Boston Common and marched to the Bank of America building at 100 Federal Street, across from South Station. Right to the City (RTTC), a group organized in 2007 as a response to the gentrification of low-income urban neighborhoods, seems to have been the primary organizer of the gathering although several other groups were represented, most notably Occupy Boston, a local protest group in the mode of the demonstrators getting attention in Manhattan this week. Rude Mechanical Orchestra, a New York-based marching band in Greater Boston for this weekend’s HONK! Festival in Cambridge and Somerville, brought horns and drums into the equation.
Opposing corporate greed was the general theme of the 2000-3000 person gathering, but specific protests differed. Many signs – especially those held by people middle-aged and up – called for a halt to foreclosures. Others demanded an end to the Bush tax cuts, or just generally appealed to the government to “tax the rich.” One sign simply impugned the integrity of FOX News, and at least one guy passed out leaflets advocating that money itself should be abolished.
“The problem is, they’re all over the map….so no one gets what they’re protesting,” said a 30-plus-year veteran of the Boston Police Department who, because of department policy about talking to the media, declined to give his name. He added with a smile, “But what they’re doing here? It doesn’t bother us…(but) a few people barged into the bank and were trying to get arrested. So we helped ’em out.”
At least 24 people were taken into custody.
When asked if the BPD had gotten any special warnings in the wake of the widely-criticized use of pepper spray by New York City police officer Anthony Bologna at the Wall Street protests a few days ago, the Boston officer said they had been briefly re-trained in the use of holds that cause minimal pain to the person being restrained. He added that Mayor Menino sent word that the tents being erected on Dewey Square should be left undisturbed despite the lack of the requisite permits. “It getting cold,” he said, “it might rain. We don’t want to make it hard on them.”
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis confirmed that some participants were taken into custody after entering the Bank of America building. According to a police spokesman Officer Eddy Chrispin, they were charged with trespassing.
Bank of America spokesperson T.J. Crawford called the protest “aggressive public-relations stunts” and asserted that “Bank of America has a lot to be proud of in Massachusetts.”
Bank of America, based in North Carolina, has more assets than any other lender in the United States.
At one point, several sub-groups left the area of South Station and marched to Beacon Hill for continued protest in front of the Massachusetts State House. Several hundred people remained around Dewey Square, however, as some individuals and groups planned to rendezvous there again later in the night. When the protest would draw to a close was uncertain, but one person was overheard saying to a fellow protestor, “This is ‘Occupy Boston’…not ‘Visit Boston!’”