Shocker: In Boston Tea Party Protests Must Get Permits, “Occupy” Protesters Don’t

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

“It’s always a dangerous precedent when the city treats one group differently than another,” said civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate. “I’m opposed generally to these requirements, but if they are required of one group, then they should be required of all. The precedent (the city is setting) is, if there are so many people joining a demonstration that the city doesn’t want to tangle with them, then they will waive the requirements.”

Organizers of the Occupy Boston tent city in Dewey Square have never sought nor received any permits from the state, the city or the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, which controls the property. …

Christen Varley, spokeswoman for the Greater Boston Tea Party, said she’s “miffed” by the laissez-faire attitude of city and state officials. The Greenway has provided electricity to the protesters, while other groups, such as the Tea Party, have to pay for power at events, she said.

“I think public safety is a huge issue here,” Varley said. She added that the Tea Party will seek the costs of the Occupy Boston protest and cleanup and “will be looking into recouping those costs for the taxpayers in the city of Boston.”

My immediate impression was that perhaps the city leadership was showing solidarity with the “occupiers,” and so giving them a break from regulations protesters they didn’t agree with had to follow. But another explanation, gleened from the article, may be that city officials are scared of making these protesters pony up like everyone else:

To avoid unrest, the Conservancy, like the city and Boston Police Department, has not booted the campers off the 1⁄2-acre plot. Conservancy chief Nancy Brennan called the makeshift campsite “an extraordinary situation” and said it would not pave the way to allow people to randomly “camp out” on the Greenway.

“In addition to supporting free speech, we’re aware that asking the protesters to leave will create conflict and significant expense,” Brennan said. “Should circumstances become unfavorable, we will work with the Boston Police Department to determine the appropriate response.”

I agree that forcing the protesters to leave would create an uproar (most definitely violent if what we’ve seen in New York is any indication). I’d even oppose efforts to do so, presuming that these protesters aren’t disrupting the flow of traffic and commerce in the area.

But how about applying the same law to them that was applied to other protesters? This movement is oh-so-populist in its themes, talking a lot about equal treatment and the like. Well how about a bit of equal treatment under the law?

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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