Protesters march through downtown Boston, Wednesday, November 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
John Ford signed up for a revolution, but he’s running a clinic.
In the early days of Occupy Boston, Ford, a 30-year-old bookstore owner from the white, blue-collar town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Alex Ingram, a 22-year-old African-American from Georgia who served in the Air Force as a linguist, would stay up late into the night in Occupy Boston’s library. Enveloped by Rousseau and Chomsky, they’d ponder big ideas about how to change the system. But tonight they’re grappling with a different set of issues: How do we deal with Henry, who’s drunk and pissed off again and recently threatened another Occupier with a hammer? What do we say to the furious young woman who’s on a manhunt for the guy who promised her forty bucks for sex and then ran off? And what the hell are we going to do about Phil?
Eviction, of course, is on everyone’s mind. Meetings are held every day to plot emergency evacuation plans. Occupy Boston’s lawyer was able to secure a restraining order that has helped prevent Mayor Thomas Menino from staging a Bloomberg-style raid. On December 1, a Suffolk Superior Court judge upheld that injunction, but it remains full of loopholes. If the camp is found to be in violation of fire and health codes, the city will have legal authority to clear camp. Fire inspectors frequent the site, documenting scores of violations with digital cameras, and Occupiers know this evidence won’t help them in court.
Menino has tolerated the encampment because, unlike some other Occupy sites, Boston hasn’t had any serious violent incidents or deadly overdoses. John, Alex and the Safety Committee are stretching themselves thin to keep it that way. They’re only sleeping a few hours each night, and they look it; John has bags under his eyes the size of banana slugs.
“This probably takes up 80 percent of my time and energy,” says John. “If someone gets raped here, I’ll never forgive myself.”
* * *
Like in other cities, Occupy Boston is much bigger than the encampment at Dewey Square. There are dozens of working groups, allied organizations, unions, cultural and religious groups and sympathetic 99 percenters organizing on everything from local “Move Your Money” initiatives to national campaign finance reform. On December 3, a convergence is being planned that will bring together Occupy Barrio (located in the largely Latino East Boston neighborhood), Occupy the Hood (in the heavily black Dorchester), Occupy Harvard (which seized the Yard) and scores of other area Occupy groups for a Unity Rally in Copley Square. One knowledgeable occupier estimated that as many as 10,000 people have been involved, in some way or another, with Occupy Boston.
But the lifeblood of the movement pumps out of Boston’s Central Artery. Or at least on top of it: the infamous, rusted eyesore of an above-ground highway, which once ran directly through the financial district, was moved underground in Boston’s Big Dig several years ago. Now, a pristine greenway named after Rose Kennedy winds through the 1.5-mile stretch where the Artery once loomed, and it’s much easier on the eyes of the 1 Percent who work there. Except, of course, for Occupy Boston’s Dewey Square encampment, which lies at the southern edge of the park. Skyscrapers, including the Federal Reserve Bank, surround the camp, creating a wind-tunnel that makes cold New England nights even harsher.