After 45 years and hundreds of police confrontations I saw the slogan born in the 60s when the anti Vietnam War protests came to life, only reversed. It was Saturday morning at 5am when Boston Police moved in on the Occupy Boston protestors and the city took back the Dewey Square encampment.
I had gotten credible information Friday, that the police would be moving in and, along with the information the office received, the station covered what we thought was going to happen all night, Friday into Saturday morning.
Thursday the Judge’s order came down telling Mayor Menino and the City of Boston they could do what they wanted as far as removing the protestors from their camp. I stayed at the site till 2am Friday but nothing happened that morning.
I left my house at 2am Saturday morning to position myself at what was to be and spent the next couple of hours trying to stay awake. Sometimes I did but there were those five-minute dozes so I kept setting my alarm for 10 minutes away so I would not sleep through the action.
There was radio silence on the scanners except for two unusual calls around 4:30am. I had an additional advantage when a friend of mine chirped me around the same time to say he saw a group of cops forming at one of their locations. I was standing on the corner of Summer Street and Atlantic Avenue looking up Summer Street towards South Boston, I saw a Boston Cop down the next block appearing to be ready to direct traffic.
Then the lights started to come over the horizon, hundreds of lights and I did see one blue light, which was probably the error of whoever turned it on. There were more headlights and even more as the parade of vehicles just kept extending. I got on the phone with the office and spoke to Lawrence Crook on the assignment desk to tell him the police were coming. I heard Gerry Wardwell in the background telling whomever to launch the helicopter. It was exciting and of course, nerve wracking since the group was still a block or so away. I hoped I was correct.
When they arrived they were mostly in econo van type vehicles, scores of them. Nothing like I was used to from the 60s and 70s when the TPF (Tactical Police Force) would roll in with their blue lights blazing, sirens screaming, horses clipperty clopping and motorcycles roaring, plus they had a converted school bus painted BPD colors with a small sign in the window calling it the “War Wagon”.
This was well organized, cops getting out of their vehicles encircling the camp and the Special Operations team wearing their black fatigues. The only armor they had on them was multiple plastic ties, which would be used as handcuffs.
The Occupy protestors who were awake sounded the alarm, running through the encampment screaming “Get up, get up, they are fucking here, wake the fuck up!” It was the modern day version of Paul Revere and William Dawes’ ride to warn the Patriots the British were coming. I recorded it all and got myself in a position where I could escape the corralling of the media as most were kept in one place, which gave everyone some access and but also kept us out of the way of the operation.
The containing of the media was not to hide anything. They needed to able to keep us from roaming freely or we could have compromised the operation. I was able to escape the stockyard corral and wandered freely for the first few minutes. I followed the Special Operations group as they tipped over tents and sliced some of them up. Before each search and destroy mission the officers made sure there was no one in the tents, yelling and looking in to make sure they were empty before completing their final mission.
At the beginning of the operation I was inside the encampment as Captain Bernie O’Rourke, Superintendent William Evans and Superintendent Dan Linskey used bullhorns to tell all the protestors what was going to happen, giving them all time to leave. The protestors could pick up some of their belongings and not be arrested. The police were almost begging them to leave and being polite beyond belief. During the 60s, if you were in the way it did not matter if you were a protestor or a camera carrying media person, if you were in the way you had to go. Many times back then you either left within the first few minutes on your own or you left in the wagon, and the arrest process was anything but gentle.
When the police finally started making arrests we were all pushed back. The paddy wagons were used to transport the arrested and when they backed in we lost our view. I spoke to Jamie Keneally, one of the BPD spokesmen working with us, and asked about a pool photographer for the arrests. He spoke to Superintendent Linskey and the next thing I knew I was in amongst the cops and Occupy People as they were handcuffed and placed in the wagon.
When a few of the protestors locked arms the cops very gently pulled them apart. I watched Lt. Bob Merner (a cop who loves what he does) separate them and make sure no one was hurt. To the end they were giving a chance to leave and not be arrested. I heard both Linskey and Evans trying to convince some of them they could just walk away and not get cuffed and arrested. For the police it was like “making love not war.”
Wow, this whole operation was so exciting, I got to do three phone interviews during our morning show. Ed Harding, the anchor, asked me a couple of questions and let me talk about what I had seen. I have decided if there is ever an opening for “Nursing Home News” I will be a candidate. I’d be perfect; an older, overweight, practically bald, shrinking anchor. All they will have to do is find some clothes for me to wear besides the jeans and sweatshirts I own now.