This past weekend marked the official start of Boston’s citywide vaccination mandate, and in the weeks leading up to the roll-out, some Bostonians have made it clear through protests that they’re unhappy with Mayor Michelle Wu’s new policy.
Last week, protesters took their complaints from City Hall to the mayor’s home in Roslindale, where they gathered with megaphones and shouted chants as early as 7 a.m. The protesters said they opposed the vaccine mandate, particularly for government workers who could be fired or suspended for not complying with vaccination requirements. A similar requirement for employees is already in place on the state level.
We asked Boston.com readers if they felt the protesters had gone too far by gathering outside the mayor’s home, and the majority of the more than 2,000 readers who responded to our poll said there was nothing wrong with how they were choosing to protest.
“These are peaceful protests and every American’s constitutional right. If Mayor Wu is unhappy, that is unfortunate. She should have been aware of the price of becoming a politician,” a reader from Boston said.
Even among those opposed to the protest outside her home were many readers who said there was nothing wrong with protesting in general, as long as protesters were considerate of who they were harming in the process.
“This needs to stop! It’s disturbing the peace of a quiet residential area where families have kids. It’s uncalled for! These protesters need to move to City Hall with their protest. Plus the protest brings along with it news helicopters which are just as disturbing in terms of noise volume,” said R.M. from Boston. “The mayor is trying to get Boston back on its feet.”
“City Hall, Boston Common, the State House, or online are all appropriate. They should protest loud and proud there. Civil employees have the right to privacy and separation from their job,” Peter V. from Sandwich said.
After another early morning protest, the mayor responded to a tweet from one of her neighbors and apologized for them having to deal with the “daily sunrise protests after late-night hospital shifts.”
Many readers in support said protests are a condition of the mayor’s job. Wu is one of several local politicians who’ve faced protests from constituents. Demonstrators have often gathered at Governor Charlie Baker’s home and just last year, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said he was forced to cancel his outdoor inauguration after “aggressive” protesters showed up at his home.
“Maybe unfortunate and somewhat distasteful but it is a public street and the people can do what they want in the public,” Jason D. said. “As long as they are not breaking any laws.”
Another reader said they should protest “however they want under the First Amendment. The mayor is ruining lives and taking jobs away from the hard-working city employees.”
The new vaccine mandate requires all city employees to have received one dose of vaccine by Jan. 15 and be fully vaccinated by Feb. 15. During a press conference on Tuesday, Wu said the city has seen an increase in vaccination rates among city employees. Those who haven’t will be placed on unpaid administrative leave starting next week.
Among the most vocal opponents to the B Together vaccination requirement include Shana Cottone, a Boston police sergeant who leads Boston First Responders United, who was among the protesters at Wu’s home last week. Cottone called the protest at the mayor’s home a “last resort” and told the Boston Globe that she opposes the mandate for religious reasons and doesn’t want the government involved in personal health decisions.
“Who is the government to tell me I’m not entitled to die?” Cottone said.
Kathy H. from Middlesex had similar concerns about government overreach, writing, “Protest at her house. At her place of work. This is an illegal mandate. Overreach, gone too far, putting our city at risk.”
Employers are currently allowed under federal employment law to require workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, and similar requirements have been made not only in Massachusetts but across the country. Daniel Medwed, a WGBH legal analyst and professor of Law and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, said that as long as Wu’s vaccine requirements don’t infringe on “constitutionally protected interests,” like the right to vote or attend religious services, they will likely hold up in court should they be challenged.
As the protests against the vaccine mandate continue, some readers said they’re more invested in public health than protesting the mandate.
“It’s their right to protest, but protesting one person’s public role at their private residence and interfering with their neighbor’s lives is an indication that this is about ‘them’ rather than the topic they think is at issue,” said a reader from Quincy. “Stay at home and let those of us who understand that our responsibility for taking advantage of living in society is that we make sacrifices for those around us. Yelling louder doesn’t make your point-of-view any more correct or important.”
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.