Police arrest protesters on Greenway
Boston police moved in and began arresting scores of Occupy Boston protesters who refused to leave a large part of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway early today.
At 1:20 a.m., the first riot police officers lined up on Atlantic Avenue. Minutes later, dozens of sheriff vans and police wagons arrived, and more than 200 police officers in a variety of uniforms and riot gear surrounded the Greenway.
Police Superintendent William Evans and Commissioner Edward F. Davis watched from across the street.
Evans gave the crowd two minutes to disperse from the park, warning that they would be locked up if they did not comply.
The crowd of protesters, energized by the sudden appearance of the Boston and Transit police officers, chanted, “The people united will never be defeated,’’ “This is a peaceful protest,’’ and “the whole world is watching.’’
About 10 minutes later, the first officers entered the park and surrounded the group. Evans, using a loudspeaker, gave one more warning and then each protester was put on his or her stomach, cable-tied, and dragged off as others tore down tents and arrested and detained people on the fringe of the park.
Police had earlier warned the approximately 1,000 protesters to leave that area, where they had settled hours before. The city wanted them off of the grounds because that part of the Greenway had undergone extensive renovations.
Occupy Boston, in a statement last night, answered the police warning by issuing a call “for any and all people to join the occupation as soon as possible.’’
“From the beginning, occupiers have worked tirelessly to maintain a positive working relationship with city officials. Today’s threats by the Boston Police Department represent a sudden shift away from that dialogue,’’ the statement said.
Tensions and new questions arose late last night when, at about 11:15, police issued written instructions and expectations to the growing group of protesters if they refused to disperse.
The notice informed the group of laws against trespassing on a new patch of the Greenway - bordered by Congress Street, Atlantic Avenue, Pearl Street, and Purchase Street - where tents had sprung up since about 4 p.m.
The notice also included the potential legal consequence for unlawful assembly (up to one year in prison and up to a $500 fine) and trespassing (30 days in jail and $100 fine).
Earlier in the day, chanting “UMass for the working class,’’ Lindy Ngoteni joined hundreds of other college students showing support for the Occupy Wall Street movement in a march through downtown designed to call attention to the financial problems facing young people.
“Our fees went up $800 last summer,’’ said Ngoteni, 20, a junior environmental science major at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “My friend had to take out loans just to pay for her health insurance. It’s crazy.’’
Occupy Boston set up a camp along Atlantic Avenue when the protest started two weeks ago. After the group expanded onto a large part of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway yesterday, police warned them to leave late last night.
In a show of solidarity with labor and community groups, the students linked arms early yesterday in a three-hour march that Boston police estimated had about 400 to 500 participants.
Police reported one arrest in the march. James Gilbreath, 59, whose address was unknown, was charged with disorderly conduct after trying to gain access to the Charlestown Bridge, which was closed for safety concerns, police said.
Wearing flip-flops and carrying backpacks, the student protesters railed against debt and the high cost of public and private education as they traveled city streets from Boston Common to the Charlestown Bridge.
They chanted, “How do we end this deficit? End the wars and tax the rich,’’ as they passed the State House.
At South Station, in the shadow of the Federal Reserve Bank and a Bank of America building, they shouted, “Banks got bailed out. We got sold out,’’ over and over.
“People who came out to be with us are here because they want to make a strong statement,’’ said Julien Jacquelin, 20, of Miami, in his first year at Boston University and one of the leaders of the march.
Harvard junior Mark Warren, 20, marched to call attention to what he said are unfair wages paid to maintenance and other workers at the Ivy League school.
“Harvard is the world’s richest university,’’ said Warren, who is from New York City. “It’s an embarrassment to its students that its workers aren’t paid more.’’
He did not say how much a fair wage should be. “That’s for the unions to negotiate,’’ he said.
The march, which paused several times for protesters to sit down and chant “Whose streets? Our streets,’’ drew support from public employee unions and labor advocacy groups, such as the Jewish Labor Committee.
Linda Hanson, 49, an elementary school teacher in Arlington, marched in support of more funding for public education.
“We need to find money from somewhere to support our schools,’’ she said, making her way across Boston Common. “We have to raise taxes on the rich to get the revenue we need.’’
Organizers, including Occupy Boston and MassUniting, a coalition of labor and community organizations, also hoped to use the protest to highlight support for President Obama’s jobs bill.
The bill is expected to be taken up in the Senate today, according to Senator John F. Kerry’s office.
The Charlestown Bridge is among the public works projects that could be funded if the bill passes, organizers said.
MassUniting had hoped to hang a banner stating, “Fix this bridge. Create jobs now.’’
But police did not allow the protesters to cross the bridge, said Jason Stephany, a spokesman for MassUniting.
“It was clear police were concerned about the safety of the bridge,’’ Stephany said. “I think our point was made.’’