Occupy Boston protesters preparing for a defiant stand-off with police were in for a surprise Friday morning, when authorities offered a late night confirmation: no raids were planned for the encampment, at least for now.
Anywhere from several hundred to over a thousand protesters descended onto Dewey Square Thursday night, after police distributed notices indicating those who failed to evacuate the park by midnight would be subject to arrest and trespassing charges.
The deadline came and went, with about 30 protesters taking to sitting and blocking traffic on Atlantic Ave. in protest of the anticipated raid.
Instead, the Boston Phoenix first tweeted at 1:09 am: “On the record: ...BPD says police not coming to #occupyboston tonight.”
The news, quickly confirmed by Boston Police Superintendent William Evans, was announced to great cheers among the occupiers. Police elected to reroute traffic as the protest embraced a street festival atmosphere in celebration.
Two protesters were reportedly arrested when they refused to remove tents they had transplanted onto Atlantic Ave. Prior to that, police were seen allowing protesters to collect their own tents and move them back to the park themselves.
"We're not trying to raid you guys tonight, okay?" Evans is heard to tell protesters on video.
Why they protest
“I'm here today specifically because of the eviction order,” Marine Sgt. Elijah Collins, 34, of Charlestown, said. While he served two tours abroad under a six year contract with the Marines, he is no longer an active member. He held a sign bearing the text of the first amendment.
“It's unconstitutional – this is public land, people have the right to be here. (Mayor Tom) Menino said it's become a health and safety concern, (but) the general assembly has tried to meet with the city multiple times to address those concerns. They refused, and have now issued the eviction notice. And that's appalling."
“This is to make a stand” sit-in participant Shannon Flahtery, 50, of Boston, said.
Northeastern senior Andrew Ross, 22 of Buffalo New York, said it was his first visit to protests.
“I heard about Menino wanting to kick people out and I said to myself, no – they should allow them to stay here,” the economics major said.
“I wasn't necessarily in full support of the occupy movement in general, but when he said that, I was like 'yeah, I'm going to go and see what's going on here.'”
But who will occupy the remote?
Occupiers had another reason to celebrate – two members of the crowd, Aaron Spagnolo, 33, and Nanore Barsoumian, 28, decided to hold an impromptu vow exchange with one of the chaplains of Occupy Boston.
The couple, from Somerville, had been engaged for a year.
“You know, we kept taking about it, every time there's a protest or something like this – 'why don't we just get married in the middle of it?'” Spagnolo joked. “...Well, the chaplain is here, and I said, 'what the heck, let's just do it.'”
“(We) will never forget,” Spagnolo later tweeted. “I couldn't believe the first time I looked up and saw everyone just cheering.”
“It was such a spontaneous decision,” Barsoumian tweeted. “The plan was May, but the night was just perfect!”
Occupiers spent the day packing most of their belongings – including a 1,000 title library and a food pantry – leaving behind a much smaller occupation than a day prior.
Activists announced a regularly scheduled general assembly will still be held at 7 p.m. in Dewey Square Friday evening, with discussions focused on “defending” the encampment from future anticipated raids.
have been active in the protests. Even before the Sept. 30 occupation of Dewey Square accusing the Bank of America of neglecting a foreclosed property in the city.
That small protest where trash was collected at the foreclosed home and brought to the bank branch on Pleasant Street .