When Protesters Stay, Who Pays?

By Phillip Martin

Oct. 21, 2011

occupy boston protesters

Occupy Boston demonstrators march after police arrested some members of the group on October 11. (AP)

BOSTON — On any given night and throughout the day, perhaps as many as a dozen cops patrol the perimeters of the Occupy Boston encampment in Dewey Square, across from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
That doesn’t come cheap. City officials estimate that more than $150,000 has been spent on police overtime for the Occupy protests.
A story in the October 21 Boston Herald connected the overtime costs to what it described as “incidents of theft, drug dealing and tension between the homeless and protesters.”
Sam Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a fiscal watchdog group, said his proposal to have Occupy demonstrators bear part of the overtime costs was straightforward.
“The City of Boston will always have ultimate responsibility for providing public safety for any activities as a result of marchers or demonstrations,” Tyler said. However, if there continued to be what he called “a minor crime issue” within the complex, “perhaps the Occupy Boston leaders should provide some support themselves in terms of paid detail. [It’s] not just a City of Boston responsibility.”
Occupy Boston representatives said that the $34,000-plus in private donations that it has raised via its website is being spent on maintaining the camp, including cleanup, food, medicine and communications.
Alex Ingram, a recently returned Air Force linguist, thought criticism of the encampment was an attempt to paint Occupy Boston as a fringe group: “They’re really just targeting us because, you know, we’re a big group and we’re public and we’re out there.”
Ingram said that the talk of crime in the encampment had been greatly exaggerated.
“Listen, there’s crime everywhere. And we bring a movement together with a lot of people like this, you’re going to find some. But it’s not like some epidemic,” he said. Furthermore, while Ingram appreciated the police presence, he thought the overtime costs were already covered by taxes.
A sign on a wall in the encampment read “no drugs, no fighting, no alcohol.” Nearby, sitting in a chair with a novel, was David Boone, a homeless man sporting a black eye. Boone said he got the shiner on the streets of Boston, not in the camp.
“Everybody here is pretty decent. It’s a good community. We all help each other stick together. We’ve got a security team and safety guides, so they’ve got it under control,” he said.
However, police said they still have to patrol around the encampment — at an average overtime cost of $33 per hour per cop. Some lawmakers said they will push to make sure that Occupy Boston pays part of the expense.

Experts will discuss the movement on the October 24 episode of "The Callie Crossley Show."

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