Occupy Boston: Stories from the Raid

Around 5:00 in the morning of December 10, 2011, the Boston Police raided the Occupy Boston encampment in Dewey Square. The next day, on a cold and sunny afternoon in Boston Common, members of the group told the story of what happened that night and the following day.

Following are some excerpts:

Occupy Boston protester
“We made a ‘sit.’ We sat down for justice. We sat down for Dewey Square. We sat down because we believed in the symbolism of that square, that space, that land.”

“Maybe it would have been cool to have hundreds of people pushing back and fighting but I knew when I went there that we weren’t going to win. No matter how many police officers were there and how many of us were there, I knew in the end that we were going to be dragged out kicking and screaming. In the end, I think things went exactly as they should have gone. I think the encampment came to a peaceful, quiet, and dignified end and that we made the stand we should have made.”

“One of the officers who was dealing with us was clearly trying to bully us into going along with what he said. As he was scolding one of our occupiers that were led out of the wagon, he said to us, ‘The Occupy movement is over for you tonight.’ First of all, we laughed in his face. Second of all, I know of at least two or three general assemblies that happened that night in jail. The first one in our paddywagon when we realized it is really hard to temp check with your hands cuffed behind your back. Second one in a holding cell which was 20 or 30 guys in a very poorly-smelling cell. Great acoustics though. Wonderful rendition of Solidarity Forever…We went through process. We had facilitators. We had consensus and voted on a proposal on our tactics for dealing with the police that night. It was a very real thing. The movement is clearly alive in our hearts, if only because of process. Oh, and we did check for quorum.”

“I read a blog post on firedoglake today that read Rescued from Real People, Boston’s De-Occupied Dewey Park Now Re-Landscaped for Passing Motorists. I don’t think that anything that the city is going to put in place over Dewey Square can even come close to being as beautiful and as valuable and as meaningful as what we had.”

Occupy Boston protester
“If you had asked me a month earlier to do that, I wouldn’t have. I broke down like a baby on Friday at a non-violent training meeting when I heard they were coming and the encampment was going to break down. I couldn’t believe that this space that we had come to love, that we had all come around together, was going to be evicted. We knew it was coming but when that reality hit, it was very hard to stomach. I think now is the point where we really coalesce, now is the point where are reborn in a way that we didn’t necessarily want to be reborn but now is the time where we move forward in total unity.”

“I was actually planning on leaving in just about five minutes. It was 5:00 in the morning and South Station had opened. I could wait another half an hour inside and then take the T back home. Did they come like lightning or what? Do they know what they’re doing or what? One second you hear something at the other end of the square and the next second there are two dozen vans there, there are literally a hundred people coming out, and there’s nothing you could do. Some of us were running around like chickens with our heads cut off: what do we do, what do we do? Somebody had the clarity of mind to sit down in the middle of the GA [General Assembly] area and they were the anchor, they were the cornerstone, to say this is what we do.”

“When this occupation started, I had a job. I left my job. I lost my job to find this occupation.”

Occupy Boston protester
“We did lose our camp but one thing we did not and will not lose is our dignity.”

“I think I was accused of being the most pro-cop, pro-Occupy person we’d ever had, to the point where people actually thought I was an undercover. But my opinion really changed last night. I got pushed around and literally grabbed and pushed by Police Commissioner Ed Davis…They screwed up big time. What a waste of money. They could have done it with six people. We didn’t put up a fight. They didn’t give us extra time to clear out on our own. I was one of those people — South Station was about to open and I had just said that to the person standing next to me. We were all ready to go. It was just a big waste, I think.”

“I had information that I got this morning saying that some of the meetings that they were having were ordering people on the ground to be super-friendly to us. If a plainclothes officer was offered a 99% button, they were wearing it. They were trying to be overtly nice. It’s not sincere, it’s all bullshit unfortunately. I realize that now. It’s too late. They’re good people but they have their orders.”

Occupy Boston protester
“I was in DC lying in a freezing cold puddle in the middle of the street taking over four major intersections with our brothers and sisters from all over the country. It was the biggest sign of solidarity… We heard that the restraining order was lifted so a bunch of us hauled asses on a bus to come home. It made me happy to see hundreds of people the night before the actual raid partying with barricades built all around the camp, everybody just dancing and singing and mocking the police. It was beautiful. I think the cops were really shady in their actions of coming in at 5:00 the next morning, so close to rush hour.”

“They had a sniper — a sniper! — on the shelf of the Fed. They had flash-bang grenades, smoke grenades, bean-bag shotguns. They looked like Nazi storm troopers rolling in.”

“The proudest thing that I can say about the raid is that our brothers and sisters held true and showed that our movement is non-violent by taking part in non-violent civil disobedience. I think everybody that stayed in Dewey Square to get arrested showed that you can’t stop us.”

“They had dragged everyone off. We went to South Station to get warm and to try to figure out where we could go from there. A couple people fell asleep at the table, there were maybe eight of us at a table. The cops rolled in, like 15 deep, and told us that we needed to leave, that South Station was private property. Last time I checked, that’s public transit. They were like, if you want to be here, you need to buy a ticket. I was like, well I have two fucking Charlie Cards, both with money in my fucking pocket. So how am I violating anything? And then Nuñez went up to them and read them the rule that we could be in there. And then they told us if we wanted to stay in there, we need to sign a contract. Only the Occupy table was come up to by 15 police officers.”

Occupy Boston protester
“We were talking about whether or not we were going to have to do this tomorrow and how we could avoid the fatigue of having to wait and wait and wait for the police. I was walking back up Atlantic Ave and then I started hearing everyone shout ‘Raid!’ I looked to my left on Summer Street and could see row after row, maybe 30 wagons roll in. I immediately took out my phone and sent a ridiculously short emergency text and by that time all the cops had lined up and were just filing out and had cordoned off the media. I started livestreaming.”

“All this family I had made, I didn’t know what was happening to them. I felt completely powerless compared to the police. Although the mayor is saying, they are not like Oakland, I feel like that is a weird comparison to make: ‘we’re not this atrociously bad and violent police department, look at us.’ I would hope they would compare themselves to something better, a higher standard. Treating 46 non-violent protesters with like 400 police in riot gear and having a sniper on the Fed, that’s ridiculous and disproportionate. But they did and they made me feel deflated.”

“We found out the mayor, Greenway, and police were doing a press conference and we decided to do an action…Someone had a really great idea to make a big banner and do a silent protest. We came up with the message ‘we’re not going anywhere.’ Because you can evict us from Dewey Square but you’re not ending Occupy Boston. I had seen a lot of press saying it’s over now and we wanted to make sure that while our brothers and sisters were in jail that we made sure the rest of the city knew that this wasn’t over yet. This was one phase.”

“We went to the police headquarters and I was livestreaming it. I got rebroadcast on a couple of big livestream channels so there was over a thousand people watching from beginning to end…We were silent for about ten minutes and then all of a sudden maybe 30 police motorcycles, the same ones we saw the night of the raid, rolled in. The motorcycles stopped, complete silence, looking at us. It was clear intimidation. We didn’t know what was going to happen. At that point, although I had been afraid of getting arrested during the raid, I wasn’t afraid anymore…Silence was powerful. We only had twelve people but we were louder than any mic-check could have been.”

“We went on the train [Orange Line T] and we did a mic check and we told people what we were doing. It was awesome. There was this woman, an older Latina lady. Her name was Alma. When we did the mic check she started clapping and hollering and was excited. I interviewed her afterward on camera and she was like I’ve been here for forty years, I’m a housekeeper, no one has helped me in my life, and she was saying how much she loved Occupy Boston and how she wanted to come and bring her son with her to the Common that night and it was amazing. Those conversations lifted our spirits. 46 people may have gotten arrested but we have thousands of people in every single town in the state, millions across the country, who support us and we need to go meet them where they’re at.”

Occupy Boston protester
“I was there until 1am. I talked to news people and it seemed so calm. I did some bicycle reconnaissance…I wanted so much for that encampment to keep going. I thought the raid was going to be Sunday night because the news guys said it was going to be Sunday night, so I went home at 1am. I got up and had coffee and I was making banners, trying to get them done for Sunday night. I wanted to be there.”

Occupy Boston protester
“I haven’t had that much anger at the police and anger at the mayor over the last ten weeks in general. I have tried so, so hard to remind myself that our movement is not about the police, that our movement is not about mayors, that our movement is so much bigger than that. But Eli and I walked by Dewey Square last night at the end of the night and I was so angry. I cannot imagine at this point, having seen the camp cleared, how anyone could come in with a bulldozer, could come in with hundreds of officers, and raze a city to the ground…I would not have found this movement if it were not for what was happening in Dewey Square. I would not have come back to this movement if it weren’t for the people who lived in Dewey Square. I was psyched to get out of bed in the morning and this from somebody who for the last five years was not psyched to get out of bed in the morning.”

“At around two in the morning, we gathered around in a circle like this and we told stories. We told stories about why we were there. We told stories about the movement. We told stories about the fact that over the course of ten weeks — how many periods of ten weeks have there been in my life — my life has changed completely. I have found this group of people who not only want to go to a bar with me but they want to stand in the street with me and they want to talk about the fact that if shit’s screwed up, you don’t just close your eyes, you do something. We wouldn’t be able to say that to one another and we wouldn’t be able to tell those stories without Dewey Square. It was heartwrenching to watch it happen and it was even more heartwrenching to go back last night and to see it gone.”

Occupy Boston protester
“I was across the street on Friday morning. The officers were pushing us back onto the sidewalk and were crowding us as close to the curb as they possibly could. I was looking at the cops and not one of them was able to hold eye contact with any of us for more than a few seconds without looking away.”

“I’ve always been fortunate enough to have a roof over my head and not have to worry about where I’m sleeping at night but the community at Dewey Square was more of a home to me than anywhere else I’ve ever been. So selfishly, part of our conversation today is where are we going to be occupying next?”

Occupy Boston protester
“The first time I got involved in stuff like this was the Vietnam War and these are part of the same organization that said we destroy a village to save it. That was the key term of the Vietnam War. There’s continuity; we’re dealing with the same organization. We’re also creating this community that’s not just in Boston. You can go from Boston to other cities and immediately be part of that same community because you have shared values, you have shared actions, you have shared history. And this is also happening in a time of system crisis, like it was in ’68. So there’s a lot of potential.”

Occupy Boston protester
“I’ve met some of the most amazing people I’ve met in my life here and that’s really saying something. I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve carved and niched out myself a little family.”

Occupy Boston protester
“I’m not supposed to be here right now. I’m supposed to be in California with my family. I had this moment when I heard about the injunction being called off and I just started crying. I was sitting on a beach with my family and I was sobbing because I heard that we wouldn’t have protection. I spent the next three nights sleeping with my cell phone under my pillow so that I would hear it and watching the livestream until 3:00 in the morning until I knew you guys were OK. I changed my flight to come back earlier — you guys got raided before I got here… My sister said, “It’s how I would respond if my four-year-old was sick on the other side of the country” and she was right. This whole Occupy Boston created a family for me…Who knew you could make a family, a giant giant family, in ten weeks? People say that takes at least nine months but no, we did it in ten weeks.”

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