As complaints rise over mass arrests by Boston police in the Occupy Boston protests, Mayor Thomas Menino decided to add a rather draconian note by announcing ” “Civil disobedience will not be tolerated.” It was a moment reminiscent of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announcing in the 1968 Democratic Convention protests that “the policeman isn’t there to create disorder; the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”
Of course, civil disobedience has long been a respected form of protest from Henry David Thoreau to Martin Luther King. The framers seemed keen on such rights when including in the first amendment that “Congress shall make no law…abridging…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
It is painful to watch the reaction to these protests. I remain co-lead counsel in the World Bank case (Chang) where we are still litigating the mass arrest of hundreds of innocent citizens without probable cause in Freedom Plaza and Pershing Park.
While offering passing sympathy for protester, Menino draw a bright line regarding any exercise of free speech that crosses the line into civil disobedience: “when it comes to civil disobedience, I will not tolerate civil disobedience in the city of Boston.”
Menino’s comment will only serve to heighten tensions and could be viewed as an encouragement for harsher treatment of protesters. As the home of the Boston Tea Party and John Adams, the comments seem tragically misplaced in both location and time.
Source: Think Progress