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Driven out, but still driven by their message

By Akilah Johnson
Globe Staff / December 9, 2011
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Old and young. Black and white. Women and men. Homeless and housed. They transformed the space near South Station into an ideological commune on Sept. 30, and yesterday they began turning it back into the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, at least physically.

Ideologically, protesters said, it’s the same place it’s been for the past two months - just without the tents.

“If the city wants to come and throw our message into a garbage can, they can do it,’’ Guy Sands, 34, said as he and another occupier archived protest signs. “The people want their voice to be heard.’’

Sands lives in Quincy and has been part of the movement since its inception. He didn’t sleep at the camp but was there first thing every morning and stayed throughout the day. That was his routine for the last eight weeks, and it’s one he planned to continue today, even if the physical presence of Occupy Boston has largely vanished.

Michael Mango, who called the encampment home since October, packed up his expensive yellow tent, partly owned by his parents, because he didn’t want to lose it if police raided the site in the city’s financial district.

“I was here Day Two,’’ the 22-year-old Roxbury Community College student said. When asked why he had opted to leave his father’s Belmont home for a tent city near South Station, Mango said: “Income and equality.’’

Mango called the encampment a publicity stunt that was needed to draw attention to vast economic disparities in the United States and start a national conversation about one of the movement’s key issues: 1 percent of Americans control up to 50 percent of the nation’s wealth, and, according to the movement’s website, use that wealth to undermine the democratic process.

“How is it that there are all these buildings and all these rich people and all I have is a tent?’’ he said, before making a promise.

“We’ll keep fighting.’’

John Murphy wore a black-and-white protest button affixed to a red skullcap. It read: “I am the 99 percent.’’

A carpenter by trade, Murphy, unemployed for two years, said he does not plan to suspend his protest “until there are cranes in the skyline’’ and workers are back on the job.

The 24-year-old Watertown native carried all his belongings in a black backpack yesterday. He had not brought a tent to the camp, depending instead on the kindness of the group for shelter.

As he took apart the camp’s logistics tent, Murphy said his hope is that the movement spreads to cities and towns throughout the state. “Massachusetts has 351 towns, and we can occupy a town a day,’’ he said.

Tents were disassembled yesterday, food donated, medicine returned. But many of those who had occupied Dewey Square pledged that they would return to protest.

Not everyone.

Once the city said that anyone on the premises after 11 p.m. would be trespassing instead of protesting, a small contingent said they were not willing to risk arrest.

“It’s not worth it,’’ Amanda Kuupiel said moments before Boston police officers started walking through the site, handing out eviction papers to campers or placing the notices on tents. The “notice of trespass’’ said violators face 30 days in jail and fines up to a $100.

Kuupiel, a 23-year-old homeless woman, said the protesters’ commitment to fighting injustice, including racism and sexism, is inspirational. And while those causes were a draw for her and for a group of friends who had been staying at the camp on and off since the beginning, they opted to spend last night at a shelter.

Bil Lewis, of Cambridge, has resigned himself to nostalgia: There will never be another time in his life, he said, like his experiences at Occupy Boston.

The 59-year-old carried a tent into Dewey Square. He gave tours to school groups and to union members around the camp.

“This is the life I want to have led,’’ Lewis said. “I am so honored to have been here.’’

Martine Powers of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Akilah Johnson can be reached at ajohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.

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