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Occupy movement's last big stand: Boston?

With Occupiers cleared out of New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, and the status of the San Francisco camp in jeopardy, the last major encampment is Boston, which recently got a stay of eviction of up to two weeks. What do Occupiers do if they can't occupy public spaces anymore?

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“We’re very pleased that the judge is being as thoughtful about this as she is, how deeply she wants to consider these issues,” says Mr. Squibb. “And we’re pleased that a raid is no longer imminent.

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The restraining order’s extension will last as long as it takes for the judge to come to her final decision, which may be before Dec. 15, according to Squibb.

Compared with officials' attitudes in other cities, Boston officials have maintained fairly cordial relations with the local movement. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has publicly expressed his support for Occupy Boston, stating after the November raid of Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park encampment in New York that there were no plans to evict the protesters.

"Good relationships with the Greenway [Conservancy, which maintains city parks] and the police department is why we’re one of the last cities remaining,” protester Ryan Cahill says.

But that seemed to change Wednesday, when the mayor’s office filed papers with the Suffolk County Superior Court system that would give the city the right to evict the Occupy protesters “if necessary.” The 200-page document pegs the Dewey Square encampment as a fire hazard and cites problems with violence, unsanitary living conditions, and drug sales in or around the camp.

“I think Menino’s rhetoric has changed depending on who he’s talking to,” says protester Ryan Cahill.  “At least he’s giving us leeway. He’s come out in support of us, but he has an entire city to look out for, not just the Occupy movement.” Still, he adds, “I don’t think the Boston Police  Department wants a violent crackdown.”

However long it hangs on, the Occupy Boston tent city will likely end up as the last standing of the major city encampments. Earlier this week, police cleared out camps in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. In San Francisco last week, Occupy protesters camping in the city's financial district were given a deadline to clear out. With that deadline long past, they are currently debating an offer from city officials to relocate to another site.

Tent cities in smaller metropolitan areas, like Des Moines and Providence, R.I., are still up and running.

In the event they are evicted eventually, the Boston protesters will have to refocus their efforts on other forms of protest, joining their counterparts in other cities. In New York, disbanded protesters have employed a number of tactics, including blocking the street in front of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s house for a 24-hour drum circle. In Los Angeles, recently evicted protesters are planning a series of smaller encampments outside of banks and country clubs.

"I think if we do end up getting evicted we have to react,” says Mr. Cahill  “That’s just an opportunity for us to try different direct action. It takes us out of our comfort zone and will show us the type of movement that we really are.”

He mentioned that the Occupiers might use the eviction itself as a cheeky opportunity for protest: “We might dress up like bankers, then do our tents up like banks, so we can say to the cops, ‘thanks for getting rid of the problem.’”

Meyer argues that a movement operating mainly online might actually get more accomplished. “It used to be you started a movement you needed a place to meet. But now when the occupation site disappears, the meeting places don’t have to be physical spaces.” And, he adds, alluding to the frustration of the movement’s in-camp general assembly meetings, “It’s harder to veto things online.”


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