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Police Urge Students to Shun Occupy Boston Walkout

Say cops are needed for Halloween safety

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The Boston Police Department urged BU students on Friday not to participate in a planned citywide walkout of classes today, October 31, saying the walkout would pull officers away from efforts to safeguard trick or treaters.

The planned walkout, which has been organized by the Occupy Boston Students Working Group, is meant to show solidarity with the Occupy Boston movement and to highlight students’ concerns about the price of higher education, student debt, and the “corporatization of universities,” according to its website.

Speaking at a forum held on Friday afternoon at Sleeper Hall with about 15 students, some of whom were associated with the Occupy Boston movement, representatives from the mayor’s office and the Boston Police Department urged students to always consider how the public’s safety might be affected by Occupy Boston activities and to become more involved in their neighborhoods.

Boston Police Superintendent William Evans, chief of the BPD Bureau of Field Services, told the students that police would be glad to guide the group’s marches. “We are not trying to stop you from peacefully protesting,” said Evans. “If you can do it in a safe way, we’re all for it.”

The meeting was organized by BU’s Student Union to give students the opportunity to talk with public officials about issues surrounding Occupy Boston, said James Boggie (CAS’12), the Student Union’s judicial commissioner and former director of city affairs. While Evans spoke for the Boston police, Jay Walsh, director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, represented the mayor.

Boggie said the Student Union had worked with Evans on safety issues in the past, and the police department persuaded Walsh to attend the meeting. “We wanted to make sure BU students were safe,” Boggie said. “Students had some confusion about the police department and we wanted to clear it up. We hope that next time we hold a discussion like this, students from other Boston-area universities and colleges can attend.”

The meeting began with a discussion of alleged police brutality on October 11, when police arrested 141 Occupy Boston protestors, including about a half dozen BU students. The BPD asked protestors to move from the area, and when they refused, officers removed them. “Did we use force to unlock people’s arms? Yeah. But we didn’t use brutality,” Evans said. “Our goal is public safety.”

John Brandon Wood (CGS’11, CAS’13), who was one of the protestors arrested, said the protest had been peaceful. “Nonviolence is a big thing for us,” he said. “We don’t want to hurt anyone.”

Walsh urged the students to become involved with the neighborhoods surrounding the University. “Have a block party and meet your neighbors,” he said. “If they’re elderly, help them out by shoveling instead of just coming and going and partying until 3 a.m. Meet your neighbors, and then they can keep an eye on your house when you leave a month for Christmas, make sure you’re not robbed.”

“We hope that students go to school here and stay to raise their families,” said Evans. “Some people think of students as a nuisance, but we don’t. We would love to see students become more involved in civic life and get more involved in volunteering.”

Tarif Ahmed (CAS’13) asked about Occupy the Hood, an Occupy event at which Roxbury residents protested local violence. “They were worried about getting shot,” he said. “At BU, what we’ve been talking about is how to not anger our neighbors when we have parties. It’s wrong to me, so what can we do to change it?”

Evans agreed with Ahmed’s point. “I recommend coming down, volunteering,” he said. “I hate to see the fear in young kids’ eyes. There are not enough jobs, and there are a lot of single parent families. You are fortunate that you live a different lifestyle up here.”

Afterward, Ahmed said that he thought the meeting was a step in the right direction because the city saw that there were interested students who wanted to have a dialogue about the issues. “A lot of kids think that the system is broken, but I think they are confusing a larger national problem with the smaller problems they face in their localities,” he said. “By talking to and building a relationship with our local officials, we empower ourselves to actually make a change. I also understand that there are students that don’t think talking to police and officials is a good idea; I implore them to realize that the marginalized communities, like Roxbury, for example, can tremendously benefit if the student population can mobilize their voice through voting and political involvement.”

K.C. Mackey (CAS’13) said she attended the meeting because she believes it’s important to have an open discourse with the police and city hall. “I want these talks to happen more often because students really care about changing things,” she said. “Unfortunately, I felt in this conversation we were being told what we wanted to hear, but I did see their side of things. We need to realize that through the movement, there are other people that we affect, like at Halloween, and the city needs to ensure public safety.”

17 Comments

17 Comments on Police Urge Students to Shun Occupy Boston Walkout

  • Sam on 10.31.2011 at 6:30 am

    I spoke with a visiting alumnus at BU this weekend who had heard about Occupy Boston and was stunned that more students at BU were not participating. She said that were they facing these things in the 70s, they’d have shut the place down (and did, if you know your history), particularly over the Bank of America presence on campus. I don’t see what the problem with being “stuck in 60s activism” is, although fetishizing nonviolence is problematic, too. Egypt’s revolution was not as peaceful as western MSM would like everyone to believe. They fought to defend area they took from the state and stood up to law enforcement until they won. This can be a nonviolent moment only if it is allowed to happen.

    There has been so much slander of the movement and divisiveness from non-participants that shows incredible privilege, ignorance and reliance on outside sources for information rather than first-hand experience. No, the movement’s not perfect, but let’s not romanticize every political movement that came before it, because those were not perfect, either. Students need to participate in this movement because it is us and our families who have some of the highest debt in the country with absolutely no recourse, declining post-educational job opportunities and an increasingly narrow range of options. People with a BA these days who don’t have connections, the ability to exploit themselves in unpaid internships or plans to continue their educations are faced with insurmountable debt and little chance of paying it off.

    Most of my peers are looking forward to jobs, if they’re lucky enough to find them, where they’re competing with high school students or people who do not have degrees for jobs that pay minimum-wage. In the world of young twenty-somethings, working in retail with a degree is a reality, not hyperbole. We’re overqualified for most jobs, under-experienced for others and too desperate for wages to be picky about the kind of jobs we take or for which we apply. It’s an exploitative culture that young people have to navigate and our post-grad futures are looking bleaker and bleaker. Don’t shun the walk-out because police think it’s a safety issue (seriously, that’s the best they can do?). Go and stand up for yourselves. It’s about time.

    Appealing to the powers that be won’t change anything — most of them don’t even have the power to make the changes we want to see and none of them have our interests at heart when they’re elected not by the polls but through the corporatization of politics (you don’t even see half the candidates who run because the media and corporate interests spend their time and money on candidates they know will do what’s best for them, and when most MSM outlets are controlled by corporations, what do we expect?). If the cops supported us, they’d join us. If the faculty supported us, they’d join us, too. Same with politicians. But they don’t and actions speak a lot louder than words.

    • NotFooledByTheMedia on 10.31.2011 at 11:04 am

      I understand the Movement’s opposition to the culture of corporatism that has permeated American politics for too long. The anger aroused by the bailouts is a righteous one, I feel it too. However, to direct that anger solely at corporate america and anyone deemed as ‘too successful’ with this 1% percent business is an attack on a symptom of the true problem. Yes, lobbyists are able to control politicians to push through self-serving legislation, but the Movement’s answer to this is more government control? This is simply expecting different results from the same remedy. So I cannot agree with this line of thought. New regulations will only create a new opportunity for a different privileged minority to push it’s agenda on those who do not wish it. We must continue to remind ourselves that democracy is susceptible to a tyranny of the majority, and true liberalism equates to holding a true conviction in one’s beliefs while not imposing those expectations upon others. I am not part of the 99% and I am quite certain I have never even met a member of this infamous one percent. (Though I’ve probably seen them in the movies or playing for a professional sports team.) Those figures need recalculating. Then there is this issue of wealth distribution. I have not as of yet learned what the ‘right’ amount of wealth for each citizen ought to be, but as long as it’s a positive number I stand to profit off the deal. However, from a group whose members are often quite vocal in their attacks on religion this seems an awful lot like required charity, through forced attrition. I love the separation of religion from state affairs as much as the next Jeffersonian but this is just religious law by another name. To sum this pathetic diatribe up because I must get some sleep before my next class and going to work tonight. (There’s no shame in working a job you are overqualified for, we are not the first generation of young people subjected to this torture. However, if one doesn’t work and demonstrate his over-qualified nature he will surely not be noticed.) Back to the point, deep down I feel a strong affinity towards anarchism, though I’ll settle for advocating a national government that intrudes into our lives as little as possible. After all, any self-respecting anarchist would do well to remember the treatment our kind has received at the hands of socialists in the past. (think CNT/FAI during the Spanish Civil War and the Ukrainian Black Army during the Bolshevik Revolution.) One last thing, I hope every Occupier will read ‘Animal Farm’ by ol’ George Orwell and remember: Boxer represents the youth.

      • Sam on 10.31.2011 at 3:15 pm

        I actually agree with you. I’m not sure where I advocated more government control, but definitely my bad if I did.

  • Stephen Evans on 10.31.2011 at 8:10 am

    Absolutely shameless! If those students want a future(for their $40,000+ per year) they should shun the police and those flunkies at the Student Union.

  • Anon-e-muss on 10.31.2011 at 8:20 am

    As the protest is going to happen during the day, I’m sure the safety of trick-or-treaters (a nighttime activity) won’t be compromised. One has to wonder about the motivation of the police in telling such a transparent lie. It certainly hurts their credibility, now and in the future.

  • Mike on 10.31.2011 at 9:15 am

    BPD: you should be ashamed. You’re telling a group of young adults who are trying to develop their identity and who are the individuals that are struggling to find post-graduation jobs to not protest. Isn’t college the time to experiment with who you are and to broaden your education. BPD should be ashamed of themselves for attempting to thwart our 1st amendment right to protest. If anything, the students should be outraged and compelled to protest just for the sake of protesting. Doesn’t matter if you’re on the right or the left, you have the right to protest and no one should discourage you from doing so.

    • Aaron L'Heureux on 10.31.2011 at 9:46 am

      “Boston Police Superintendent William Evans, chief of the BPD Bureau of Field Services, told the students that police would be glad to guide the group’s marches. ‘We are not trying to stop you from peacefully protesting,’ said Evans. ‘If you can do it in a safe way, we’re all for it.'”

      Sounds to me like they want people to protest peacefully and will even escort them, but to be mindful of safety. Of course they are going to suggest that other actions occur, but I don’t think they need to be ashamed or that they are trying to stifle someone’s right to protest. I think they’re suggesting people be thoughtful about their actions.

      If someone wants to protest, I would hope they would anyway regardless of this conversation.

    • NotFooledByTheMedia on 10.31.2011 at 11:18 am

      The police must not have made it into that 99% category. Sorry guys, I thought for sure you’d qualify.

    • KC on 10.31.2011 at 11:22 am

      Mike, obviously you didn’t read the whole thing. They asked us not to protest on *Halloween* because there will be little kids trick-or-treating, and they’d rather use their efforts to protect those kids than escort our marches. On any other day, they’ve supported our protests.

      • Mike on 10.31.2011 at 11:58 am

        KC, you obviously didn’t do your research. The students planned to walk-out of class at 1 pm. I don’t know how much trick or treating is going on when all of the kids are in school.

        • allegra on 11.02.2011 at 12:56 am

          The choice not to march on the 31st was not due to the police speech, but rather because a march on Wednesday November 2 took precedence. While this was a walk out for the movement as a whole, the Wednesday march was about solidarity with Occupy Oakland and the message was something we wanted to support as a group.

  • Joe on 10.31.2011 at 2:50 pm

    The students who chose to come to BU knew how expensive it was when they signed up, I would like to note. And I still don’t see how marching around a city will get anything done when this protest group doesn’t even have a set list of goals or a leader to rally behind. I’m with Chomsky on this one: This movement might have a noble aim, but it needs to have have realistic and achievable goals, too, instead of a bunch of whiny young adults and unemployed, disgruntled hippies sitting around saying, “They took all our money and we’re tired of it.”

    • Sam on 10.31.2011 at 3:16 pm

      My college tuition was over $10k less when I started than it is now. Financial aid has also decreased substantially in that time.

  • Nathan on 10.31.2011 at 4:50 pm

    re: “the walkout would pull officers away from efforts to safeguard trick or treaters.”

    Why would the officers need to have ANY involvement with citizens in a walkout?

    If the officers leave particpant of the walkout alone, in order to “safeguard trick or treaters,” how would that be a bad thing?

    • Dee on 10.31.2011 at 4:58 pm

      Good point. Unless there were plans for a large sit-in protest as part of this walkout, there should be no Police involvement needed for students standing up and walking out of class, etc…

  • A Member of BU Occupies Boston on 10.31.2011 at 6:57 pm

    MASSIVE STUDENT WALK OUT THIS WEDNESDAY. BE IN MARSH PLAZA AT 11 AM.

  • someone who was there on 10.31.2011 at 6:59 pm

    there were only about 12 people at this event…

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