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Occupy Boston takes protest to Boston Massacre site

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  November 3, 2011 06:33 PM

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Dave Tree.jpg

(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

Dave Tree spoke outside the Old State House, alarming some unsuspecting tourists.

Occupy Boston protesters sought to lend historical resonance to their month-old movement today with a march through downtown to the site of the Boston Massacre and other points along the Freedom Trail.

“Enough blood has been shed already,” said Dave Tree, an artist from Allston who spoke at the site beside the Old State House. “We are still struggling to be free in this country.”

Marches through the city have been an almost daily feature of the protest since it began Sept. 30, but this was the first to take on a historical theme. Protesters had announced the march as scheduled for 2 p.m., but it was delayed by almost an hour when representatives from Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream arrived at 2 to dish out free scoops to the protesters.

Just before 3 p.m. protesters began marching through their camp in Dewey Square, across Atlantic Avenue from South Station and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, calling, “Out of the tents and into the streets,” to increase their numbers.

Variations on that cry are a common element of the protesters’ marches, as they often encourage other members of the “99 percent” — that majority of society they say is barely getting by while the top 1 percent of earners control an inordinate share of the wealth — to join the movement.

Ultimately they were able to gather fewer than 40 marchers, and several of those were not members of the encampment but had come for the day bearing signs opposing the state legislature’s proposed casino gambling bill.

marching down Surface Street.jpg
(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
Protesters returned to the Kennedy Greenway.
A young man bearing a large, upside-down American flag led the march. Asked why the flag was flown in that manner he and other protesters responded, “This country’s in distress.” As the marchers chanted familiar slogans such as, “This is what democracy looks like,” and, “Whose streets? Our streets,” some fell out of sync with others or began competing chants — evidence of the difficulty protesters face in relaying the same message when the movement has embraced so many different agendas.

In his speech at the Boston Massacre site, Tree told the other protesters that the police who accompanied the march and who watch over their encampment are members of the working class and thus part of the 99 percent as well. He encouraged the protesters to work with the police but asserted their First Amendment right to “speak freely about the injustice of the economic system here in the United States of America.”

“We’re on a march for freedom in this country,” he said. “For an independence that still has yet to be won from 1770, when blood was shed on this very spot. The struggle continues, my friends. We’ve got to be positive, non-violent, and determined, and last this winter out so that in the springtime we can have an American Spring and show these people the determination that we have and to get the dialogue going that needs to be done.”

Tree concluded his speech by leading the others in sing-along of the Woody Guthrie folk song “This Land is Your Land” with lyrics modified to reflect the specifics of the Occupy Boston movement.

From there, the protesters marched to Faneuil Hall and through the food court inside Quincy Market, pausing under the building’s rotunda to tell dozens of diners the story of Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old former US Marine and Iraq War veteran whose skull was fractured when he was struck by object while police in Oakland, Calif., tried to prevent protesters from re-entering a plaza that had been cleared.

“They used teargas, flash grenades, bean-bag guns, rubber bullets, and force to take down the protesters,” one man said, pausing every few words, in the manner of the protesters’ “human microphone,” to let the others repeat what he had said so everyone could hear.

“His skull was fractured, his brain swelled up, and he is no longer able to speak,” the protester said. “So we are here to speak for him. You can look up Scott Olsen, and you will see a video. The police clearly aimed for his head, then clearly aimed at those who came to his aid with a flash grenade. Is this the kind of world you want your children and their children to inherit?”

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com.
Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow Downtown on Twitter: @DowntownUpdate.

protesters in Quincy Market.jpg

(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

The protesters paused under the rotunda of Quincy Market to tell diners the story of Scott Olsen, an Occupy Oakland protester injured during a confrontation with local police.

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