Kennedy Greenway Court Decision Looms

BOSTON --- Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre ruled on Thursday, Dec. 1 that the protest group Occupy Boston can remain encamped on the Rose Kennedy Greenway until December 15, at which time she will decide whether to lift or extend the restraining order which currently prevents city officials from evicting the group.

During last week's packed hearing, lawyers for the city and the Rose Kennedy Conservancy argued that the presence of the campers, who are protesting corporate greed and economic inequality, has increasingly become unsafe and unsanitary.

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Boston Fire Department Marshall Bart Shea told the judge that there are numerous fire code violations at the site and that a very real fire hazard exists.

Public health documents filed in the case state that health inspectors have found bottles of urine outside several tents, increasing amounts of garbage and clutter, a filthy kitchen with food stored in ripped bags or left out, an unattended medical tent with unlabeled liquids and medicines, and "a strong smell of urine coming off the main pathway of the camp."

Boston police documents show that more than $750,000 has been spent in overtime pay for officers who have been keeping order and who have responded to 87 incidents at the site in the past two months, including crimes involving drugs and violence.

As recently reported in the Echo, the board of directors of the Kennedy Greenway Conservancy had asked Mayor Thomas Menino, in a letter dated November 8, to evict the protesters because of the deteriorating conditions at the park, which is named in honor of the matriarch of the Kennedy clan and was designed as "a legacy of beautiful open spaces."

Lawyers for the protesters now claim that the occupation is a form of free speech which is protected by the First Amendment.

In a brief, the lawyers argue that the central message of the group is that "there is the possibility of a more fair, democratic and economic egalitarian society."

But lawyers for the city and the Greenway argue that the encampment has become a housing development.

"The tents became dwellings, and they don't comply with the law, period," said Michael Ricciuti, a city attorney.

With frustration growing and tensions mounting, next week's ruling will determine if the protesters will be packing it in and taking their message elsewhere, or celebrating Christmas where they are camped.