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Occupy Boston Takes Over Dewey Square

Posted by Alex Pearlman  October 3, 2011 08:45 AM

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99.pngAs morning commuters head down Atlantic Avenue to their jobs in the Financial District today, they’ll be hard-pressed not to notice what’s going on at the Summer Street intersection, kitty-corner from South Station. A tent city popped up in Dewey Square over the weekend, and its residents are making their voices heard -- they’re ready to stay until someone listens.

“I have a feeling [the people who work in the area] won’t be too excited [to see us],” said Ryan Cahill, 26. “I’m sure they’ll want to marginalize us as much as possible.”

Occupy Boston, one of over 100 occupations that emulates and stands in solidarity with Occupy Wall Streetsettled into the square at 6 p.m. on Friday night.

“We are raising awareness about the discontent with the American corporate and political systems. We’re inspiring conversation, discussion and debate around topics like corruption, financial inequality, and political immorality,” says the group’s official website. “[W]e feel our national leaders have let us down too many times....Occupy Boston will persist in advocating the need for change, defining the change we need, and reaching out to policy-makers, business leaders, and citizens to join us.”

6205965670_1fd4967290.jpgBy Sunday morning, less than 48 hours after the occupation began, the little area beneath the towering buildings had become a smoothly running, although slightly muddy, city-within-a-city: About 50 camping tents of varying sizes, some featuring flags and signs, populated the grass (or what was left of it; organizers have promised to reseed the area in the spring).

Larger pop-up tents and tarps held up with poles and rope marked spots for food, first aid, meditation, media, and sign-making, among other facilities. A cardboard path wound through the site, from the welcoming/info table at the back to the spot at the front designated for twice-daily assemblies. Makeshift cigarette disposals lined the area, and garbage sat near the proper receptacles, ready for daily pickup by city sanitation workers.

The spectacle elicited honks from passing cars, and passers-by occasionally stopped to watch. Some, like a well-dressed older couple, listened to announcements and seemed eager to help. Although the crowd was sparse around 11 a.m., Cahill estimated that about 1,000 people showed up for Friday night’s assembly and between 400 and 600 people were milling around on Sunday night. “It comes and goes with the time of day and weather,” he said.

These occupiers are clean, peaceful, and organized. Their reasons for being there are varied, and they all stressed that they speak for themselves, not the group as a whole, but, as one man said, “Everyone’s here because they know something’s wrong.”


Video by The Matthew Filipowicz Show

"Basically, I’m fed up with politics,” said Cahill. “I’m tired of hearing campaign promises and getting the opposite. [I want] to bring attention to the fact that...you can influence politics at a grassroots level.”

As a whole, the group is tech-savvy, disseminating much of their information through Twitter and their website and using those avenues to quietly garner support, whether through a news story, a plethora of donations, or a simple email, Facebook post, or tweet of solidarity.

“Donations have been great,” said Cahill, “but we need bodies.” He said that not everyone who came out was camping or staying long-term and urged Bostonians to come check out the scene, even just for an hour or two, and learn a little more.

Occupy Boston has been peaceful compared to its Wall Street counterpart. While the New York occupation has earned its media attention via arrests and allegations of police brutality, Occupy Boston has been relatively uneventful.

The Boston Police Department has officers stationed nearby 24/7 to make sure both the occupiers and passers-by remain safe. They served as crossing guards during a march on Saturday.

“I have nothing but praise for the Boston Police Department,” Cahill said. “You barely notice their presence, except when it’s absolutely necessary.”


Find more photos in the #OccupyBoston Flickr photostream

Photos by Occupy Boston (top) and Courtney Sacco

By Angela Stefano -- It's "Ang," if you please -- or, alternately, Bill, Penny Lane, or (begrudgingly) Angus to some. I've been with TNGG since the site started and am now the TNGG Boston editor for Boston.com. I graduated from Boston University's College of Communication in 2009 and am a huge fan of live music, hockey, and Thai food. I'm also a bit of a klutz, but that's only because my mind and body are always going in approximately a zillion separate directions. Twitter: @amstefano988

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