Occupy Boston: Smart, Savvy, and Aiming to Emulate Wall Street Protests
About 200 people in Boston express their outrage at America's economic woes – and promise to take up the protest baton
There were socialists, anti-poverty campaigners, students, anarchists, computer hackers, the unemployed, and workers ranging from a vet to an accountant.
And, numbering around 200 and meeting to plot until late in the night, a group of Bostonians have decided to recreate the anti-Wall Street protests that are gripping New York.
Unlike previous attempts, such as a march that fizzled out in Chicago with just 20 people, the people behind Occupy Boston showed a strong dose of media savvy and organizational skill on Monday night, as they drew a committed crowd of volunteers to their cause: to occupy a slice of the city. Local TV crews were in attendance at the evening mass planning meeting, and it had been flagged on the front pages of Boston's newspapers.
The move raises the first serious prospect of the Wall Street protests spreading beyond New York and comes as other events are also being planned in Los Angeles and Washington.
The crowd of Bostonians listened and spoke about their anger at the ills in the capitalist system in general and the financial industry in particular.
Gathering in the center of Boston Common, in the heart of the city, they heard various speakers promise to copy the New York protests. "Tonight we begin to show the world how to live in freedom and peace. Right here, right now, a new life is starting," said Marissa Egerstrom, one of the organizing forces behind Occupy Boston.
Those were big words to say in front of just 200 people. But Occupy Boston aims to emulate Occupy Wall Street protesters, whose seizure of a downtown Manhattan park was first ignored by most of the media but has now generated headlines around the world, especially after police used pepper spray against peaceful women demonstrators.
Many of those gathered on the Common, including nearly all the key organizers, had been to New York to witness the protests. One organizer, Matthew Krawitz, who brought his two daughters to the Common, had been in Manhattan for the first day of the protests there. Now the unemployed IT expert was helping set up something similar in Boston. "I'm here to give them a better future," he said, referring to his two children.
In style and substance, Occupy Boston closely followed that of Occupy Wall Street, which was itself inspired by recent social movements in Spain and Arab countries. After the speeches different tactical groups were formed – covering everything from legal affairs to food to medical to media outreach – to prepare for the coming occupation.
Potential sites to be occupied included the Common itself and Dewey Square in Boston's financial district. Potential dates were also picked, with some as soon as this coming weekend. The separate groups operated in a "leaderless" style that dragged on in often circular debates but were impressive for eventually coming to collective agreement.
The meetings lasted for several hours in the park, as crowds listened to rabble-rousing speeches and critiques of capitalism. It promised a striking protest to come, but at times offered an incongruous vision of Boston. Ringing the common where the protesters met are some of the most upmarket streets in the city, lined with million-dollar townhouses. And on the park itself, virtually next door to where scores of people talked of forcefully bringing down American capitalism, fellow Bostonians enjoyed games of tennis on brightly lit late-night courts, seemingly oblivious to what was going on in the darkness just 50 yards away.
But what was never in doubt among the disparate participants was a sense of outrage and injustice at America's current economic woes. Bob Norkus, 54, had been out of work for a year. He has one simple desire. "Things need to be realigned. It's 99 percent of us versus one percent of them. This is still a democracy if we care to grab it," he said.
There were people with jobs in the crowd, too, and they were equally angry. Cynthia Brennan, 41, is a veterinary nurse. She had been inspired to come to the common by watching the popular revolts of the Arab Spring. "I was fascinated by Egypt. I was in front of al-Jazeera all the time. It needs to happen here," she said.
Local government accountant Tim Larkin, 28, agreed. But he wanted to improve on the New York protests in Boston. "We have to be better than New York and have a stronger set of demands," he said.