It was the end of the beginning. At about 2am on December 10th, roughly three hours before the police raid on Occupy Boston, dozens of protesters could be seen gathered in a circle at the edge of Dewey Square.
The mood was quiet but hopeful, as they took turns discussing the future of the movement, the bonds they’d created, and what they were thankful for. Many reflected that they were grateful for their time in Dewey, but knew that the movement would continue on and gain strength because of the bonds and friendships that had been created at the encampment. Kat Cancio, a student at Northeastern, recalls, “As much as we all kept reassuring ourselves that the physical encampment was significant but not defining of our movement, I think there was a mutual understanding that we were not ready to leave.” Others, however, felt ready and eager to move on to the next phase.
Since Wednesday evening, when Judge Frances A. McIntyre lifted the temporary restraining order that Occupy Boston held against the city of Boston, the looming threat of an imminent police raid had kept many occupiers on their toes. Rain had kept the police away on Wednesday – with officer safety cited as the reason – and a turnout of over 1000 people on Thursday night deterred any police action.
However, at 4:45am on Saturday, December 10th, hundreds of police officers finally moved in on Occupy Boston’s encampment at Dewey Square, ending the group’s 70 day occupation of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Out of the roughly 150 people present to defend the camp, 46 were arrested.
Throughout the following day, protests sprouted up across the city: outside of Mayor Menino’s press conference regarding the raid at police headquarters, in front of police stations in the South End and South Boston where the arrested were being detained, and even on the T, where Occupy Boston participants conducted “mic checks” to inform riders of the morning’s events. One question was on everyone’s mind, leading up to the night’s GA: what happens next?
The 1000-person strong meeting proved to be anything but an exercise in wound-licking. Many people mourned the destruction of the camp which had served so powerfully to bring the Occupy Boston together as a community, but it was clear that people wanted to get back to work, to plan new actions and initiatives. A lot of ideas were swirling at the first post-Dewey GA, but one thing was clear: even without a physical occupation, Occupy Boston was ready to face the challenges lying before it.
A number of these challenges have been logistical. Although its location in the heart of Boston’s financial district was itself part of the movement’s message, the camp also served as an organizing hub and, for many, a communal residence. It was the point of departure and return for numerous marches and rallies. Everyone knew where to find Occupy Boston and occupiers knew where to find one another. With the loss of Dewey, Occupy Boston’s numerous working groups have had to sharpen their attention to communication and coordination, as well as find alternate modes of operating.
The Information Working Group, for instance, originally concentrated on staffing the Information Tent in Dewey Square, so that there was always someone whom visitors could ask about Occupy Boston and the larger Occupy movement. Kevin Maley, a 27-year-old sustainability associate from South Boston, has participated in the Information working group since early October. He says that the group now plans to set up a “mobile info tent” outside General Assemblies and other Occupy Boston events. “We can talk to people who pass by or wander over from off the street and just want to simply ask, ‘What’s this?’ – just like we did before.”
Other groups have also taken seriously the concept of staying adaptable and mobile. One occupier, Jay, who had previously staffed the “Signs” tent at Dewey Square, now bikes to Occupy Boston events with a red Radio Flyer wagon full of protest signs.
The first Monday after the eviction, members of Occupy Boston’s Socialist Caucus put together an “open mic” rally and march that drew more than a hundred people to City Hall Plaza. Joe Ramsey, who helped to organize the event, said the main goals were to “protest the city’s decision to evict Occupy Boston and publicly demonstrate that we’re not going away, that you can’t evict an idea.” Ramsey said that the the rally allowed an array of voices to speak out, some expressing “personal anger and sadness about what happened at Dewey,” and others “giving more developed ideas about what our movement should do next.” Suggestions ranged from bringing Occupy into the workplace to “champion[ing] the cause of defending those facing eviction themselves.”
At a General Assembly on December 15, Occupy Boston approved by consensus a statement of solidarity with City Life/Vida Urbana. Bryan MacCormack, an occupier who has focused on movement-building between Occupy, labor unions, and community groups, said that he was “very excited about this work. It shows that community organizations and the Occupy movement can do some empowering and mutually beneficial work with the people of the 99% who have been disproportionately affected by the financial crisis.”
In a gesture of solidarity following a press conference on December 16, Occupy Boston helped decorate City Life’s “justice tree” with tiny tents made of cut-up Bank of America debit cards. MacCormack says that Occupy is “looking forward to assisting with and learning from future eviction blockades and occupations of foreclosed homes,” as organized by City Life.
Occupy Boston isn’t only focused on supporting the rights of those recently affected by foreclosure and eviction. The group has also sought to find housing for those at the Dewey encampment who had no other home, with the support of the houseless themselves. Matthew Shochat, a 27-year-old occupier from Cambridge, said the Houseless and Allies Working Group has floated several ideas of how Occupy Boston might address the displacement, including “utiliz[ing] the homeless resources that are available, to buy a house and make it a work as a living space.”
Whether students, who have played a big role in Occupy Boston since the beginning, will stay involved during and after winter break remains a question. With tens of thousands of Boston students traveling home for the holidays, some are asking whether the movement will have lost a major source of energy by the time the Spring semester starts up in January. Emma Macdonald, an Emerson College student and frequent participant in Students Occupy Boston, expressed measured optimism, saying that students’ commitments will depend, in large part, on what happens to the Occupy movement itself in the coming weeks. However, “everyone will just be excited to come back [in January]”, and efforts will likely continue.
News coverage of Occupy-related actions has dwindled after Dewey. A satirical “Pro-Corporate” march through the Prudential Center on a busy Saturday afternoon went unreported by mainstream outlets, as has been the case for a score of other marches, rallies and gatherings hosted under the “Occupy” banner. While it is true that many initiatives are still only in the planning stages of what some have referred to as “phase two” of Occupy Boston, just as many groups (including the Boston Occupier) are continuing on with business as usual.
Although some believed that Occupy Boston would end with the destruction of the encampment in Dewey Square, it appears that the movement is instead evolving and adapting. Only time will tell how, after the cold winter months, it grows and develops in the spring.