BOSTON/Dewey Square - In less than 24 hours, the Dewey Square site of the Occupy Together movement, part of a grassroots protest spreading across the U.S., transformed from a muddy lawn strewn with tarp-covered supplies and a few dozen tents, to a well organized village complete with designated media, medical, legal, outreach, tactical and spiritual space.
Organizers pushed for more structure, motivated in part by a break in the rainy weather, and in response to a positive exchange with park maintainers from the Rose Fitzgerald Conservancy and representatives from the DOT and the Department of Waste Management. To minimize the occupation’s impact, leaders assigned tents to rows, identified walking paths and explained the new twice-a-day garbage pickup. They also cleared the gravel path in the park where a farmers market is welcome to set up as they always do on Tuesdays.
Steve Anderson, Director of Park Operations for the Conservancy, said he came to talk with the protesters when he saw social media messages encouraging occupation on the greenway all the way to the North End. In an effort not to lose all the work his organization has put into the park, he asked participants to stay out of areas with plants and to contain the settlement to Dewey Square. He said for now he’ll ignore the rule prohibiting anyone from being in the park after 11 p.m. To make up for the damage the park lawn will sustain, organizers offered to return to Dewey Square on Earth Day 2012, to help re-seed the park.
A visit to some of the tent sites revealed a streamlined operation of accepting and distributing or using donated materials. A steady stream of cars and people arrived throughout the day with donations for the protestors, from packages of socks to first aid to storage containers, tables, tents and chairs. Medics showed off their tent, outfitted with one sleeping mat, two lawn chairs and a table for supplies. They emphasized that they are currently inundated with first aid and personal care items, but they won’t turn anything away.
Workers in the Food tent explained that donations are welcome, but the community prefers vegetarian fare and needs to offer some foods for those with gluten and nut allergies. While non-perishables are always helpful, they enthusiastically welcome hot dishes they can serve at their 3 p.m. meal and they invite anyone to join them. The organization Food not Bombs has provided a place for them to prepare food, but they are looking for other donated kitchen space as a way to minimize their impact on any one group.
Leading up to the evening’s General Assembly, marchers from that afternoon’s demonstration described their effort to greet and recruit students attending College Fest at the Hynes Convention Center. One marcher, a member of the hotel workers union, said they spread the message to college representatives that they intend “to take back the educational system” that has become a disservice to children of the U. S.
Everyone was invited to add their name to a speaking list, and the media working group asked for participants to give interviews and train to be spokespersons, so that “the movement has more than one face.” Repeated appeals for “people of all colors and genders” went out during a period for announcements that ran over an hour. Following that, groups were to break out and hold discussions about what they want to achieve. One leader, just in from New York, urged people not to strive for “one strict demand” that can divide, but rather to strive for an open, democratic forum and to make that the demand to those in power.
Each working group gave a report on their progress. Outreach urged everyone to participate in canvassing, Legal repeated the number for the Lawyers Guild, in case of arrest. Tactical raised the issue of who should handle conflict resolution and Spiritual asked for donations of objects to beautify the meditation space. A solution for where to smoke was approved by the hand-waving, finger wiggling sign of approval, while the debate on how to handle financial donations was tabled.
Although bad news of the arrests in New York gave cause for concern, one organizer named Alex rallied the Boston group, saying “we watched the live stream…as our brothers and sisters in New York were abused. We’ve been lucky in Boston.” She called it a success that major news organizations such as The Guardian, Forbes and Al Jazeera have covered the Boston movement, and she chanted, “The whole world is watching!”
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