Safety and Control

Most cities, including Boston, have laws requiring that public events and protests be approved ahead of time, through permits and the like. If there is a justification for removing the Occupy protesters, this could be one possible argument. In this vein, the city argued at the recent court hearing regarding Occupy Boston that said occupation was in violation of fire and safety codes.

Well, they're only concerned about the safety and health of the protesters, right? Surely that's not such a bad thing! Of course, then the Boston police department promptly took away the fire-resistant tent that the protesters tried to bring in. The answer to "how can we change what we're doing to bring ourselves in line with these safety codes, we don't want anyone dying either" was "get out". And besides being somewhat in bad faith on the city's part, that's incompatible with the goals of the Occupy movement.

That's what I've come to realize regarding the situation. After all, one part of the message here is that the people's voice in government has been co-opted by the 1 percent, that the system is set up so that only those people with money are truly able to exercise their First Amendment rights. I was unable to determine whether the proper permits would cost anything to be issued to Occupy Boston. I rather suspect those permit applications would be denied, in much the same way that the city refused to deal in good faith on the protesters' efforts to create a safe protest.

That is a violation of First Amendment rights. A system that facilitates safe protests is one thing, but I don't think that's the system we have. I think the system we have is one that functions to control what protests can happen, in the name of "safety". Unfortunately, it probably wouldn't be easy for the city to ensure that people can safely practice their First Amendment rights, but it is necessary.

I call upon the city of Boston and Mayor Menino to prove me wrong, regarding my suspicions about control. Let Occupy Boston stay, and work with them to allow them to conduct their protest safely while remaining in Dewey Square.

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