Police Urge Students to Shun Occupy Boston Walkout
Say cops are needed for Halloween safety
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