A virtual community meeting to discuss concerns over dirt bikes and loud parties at Boston’s Franklin Park ended abruptly Tuesday after it was Zoom-bombed with sexually explicit images and racist language.
Councilor Matt O’Malley, an organizer of the meeting, said he is hoping to reschedule the meeting for either Wednesday or Thursday.
More than 200 people had tuned into the meeting, which was billed as an opportunity to hear solutions from city officials on multiple issues relating to the city’s park. The city is considering $28 million in improvements to the 527-acre park that includes hiking trails, pathways, playing fields, a golf course, and zoo, among other public amenities.
In recent days, police have received numerous disturbance calls for a large number of dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles and double parked cars in and around Franklin Park, according to police reports. A dirt bike rider struck a cyclist in the rear parking lot to the park’s zoo in an alleged hit-and-run incident shortly after 6:30 p.m. Sunday, according to police. An officer responding to that call saw 75 to 100 off road vehicles “erratically driving at high rates of speed” and performing wheelies in the road. The cyclist was found laying on the ground bleeding from his right hand and told police that a dirt bike hit him but he could not provide a description of the rider, according to a report.
Less than an hour later, a pregnant woman was struck in the shoulder by gunfire near the intersection of Talbot Avenue and Wales Street. Police said in a report that hundreds of vehicles, dirt bikes, and ATVs made it “extremely difficult” for officers and paramedics to respond to the shooting. The victim was taken to Brigham and Women’s Hospital where she was in stable condition, authorities said. The unborn child did not suffer any injuries, according to a police report. A police report said one witness said the victim was hit with crossfire between two groups and was not the intended target.
Acting Mayor Kim Janey, was asked what she planned to do about dirt bikers around Franklin Park during a Monday appearance on WBUR.
“I hear the bikes as well, I just spoke with our chief about this issue just last night,” said Janey. “As the weather gets warmer we know this will continue to be a challenge.”
Before the meeting, some councilors weighed in on the issues plaguing the park.
O’Malley said he wanted the park “to be safe for everybody.”
“Those who use the park and those who live in neighborhood,” he said during a phone interview.
In a statement, Councilor Michael Flaherty said: “We cannot continue to allow unregistered, uninsured, and in some cases, stolen, ATVs and dirt bikes to continue to put themselves and others’ safety at risk.”
“There is plenty of space in the suburbs to pop wheelies, but not in our highly dense city streets and parks,” he said.
City Councilor Michelle Wu said that the city “must be very intentional here about not perpetuating the overpolicing of Black and brown youth, so we can find solutions that engage young people, protect pedestrian safety, and keep our parks and open spaces welcoming for all.”