By Josh Sager
Have you ever heard the story where three dozen police officers gathered on one cold, fall night with the noble goal of removing a dangerous sink from a public park; thus protecting society from the terrible dangers of dishwashing and, gasp, wrinkled hands? If you have, you should know that this story is neither an urban legend, nor the beginning of a Keystone Cops episode but rather a true story.
On the night of the second of December, over thirty police officers extracted an industrial grade sink from the Occupy Boston camp located in Dewey Square; it is currently unknown what law or regulation was used to justify the removal of the sink as the police have yet to release their statement. The removal of a sink from the occupation is somewhat incongruous with the city’s stances that fire safety and health concerns are the major problems with the occupations.
Unfortunately, the incident with the sink is not an isolated incident, even in the face of a court order enjoining the police from evicting the occupiers except under extreme circumstances. The court order, issued by Judge Frances A. McIntyre, does not directly forbid the police from preventing goods from being brought into the camp, but rather stops the police from clearing the camp. The restraining order is in place pending final decision by the judge on whether safety and fire concerns outweigh the rights to assemble, and by extension, occupy. Despite the order, police have taken shipments of pallets from people delivering them, and removed them in prisoner transport wagons; in one case the police even searched a van that they suspected contained “contraband”.
In a catch 22, the police are arguing that the occupations are too dirty and unsafe to allow the occupations to continue, regardless of the rights to assemble and speak, while at the same time preventing any material to be brought in that can improve the camp. Winterized tents, insulation, structural support, and apparently sinks are all considered “contraband” by the police. All contraband is confiscated on sight and thus the materials that can improve the cleanliness and fire safety of the camps are effectively blockaded from the camp; since the blockade started, only materials that can be snuck past the police have been used to update the camp.
Blockaded material would have large and obvious benefits in reducing the very issues that are being used to justify the shutdown of occupations. Winterized tents could reduce the number of tarps and insulation, thus reducing fire hazards, which would reduce the fire danger in the camp. Pallets are used to create a stable and safe walkway, thus reducing the likelihood of people falling and injuring themselves. A sink, operated by using water jugs, could be used to increase the ability of the occupiers to supply the campers with clean water. When you take the benefits of the items into consideration with the “concerns” of the police, doesn’t it seem that the authorities would laud the efforts of the occupiers to conform to safety regulations?