Police can evict Occupy Boston protesters from their camp in a city square without seeking court approval, a judge said.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre today denied Occupy Boston’s request to bar the city from clearing the camp. She lifted a temporary court order that had protected the protesters from being evicted from the portion of the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Dewey Square near the city’s financial district they seized on Sept. 30.
“While Occupy Boston protesters may be exercising their expressive rights during the protest, they have no privilege under the First Amendment to seize and hold the land on which they sit,” Judge McIntyre wrote.
The city argued in court that the tent city, where more than 100 are living, poses a fire and public health hazard.
Mayor Thomas Menino issued a statement saying he “applauds” the judge’s ruling and is concerned about health and safety conditions in the camp.
“The city strongly encourages the Occupy movement to abide by the Rose Kennedy Greenway regulations and remove their tents and refrain from camping in that area,” he said in the statement. “Today’s decision provides clarity surrounding Occupy Boston’s status at Dewey Square and the city will act appropriately to fulfill our duty to preserve the public’s peace and safety.”
Occupy Boston members planned an emergency general assembly for 7 p.m. today at the camp to meet with their lawyers.
“We have lost our safety net and encourage everybody to come,” the group announced on its website.
Occupy Boston must abide by rules governing the park which do not allow overnight camping, the judge said. Her ruling doesn’t require the protesters to leave.
The city’s fire marshal testified Dec. 1 that he witnessed numerous fire hazards at the camp, including rampant smoking, burning of sage and unapproved uses of extension cords.
Occupy Boston members said fire and public health officials refused to meet with them about how the camp could meet safety codes.
Members scuffled with police last week when they tried to bring a 10-foot industrial sink into the camp’s mess tent. Police confiscated the sink and also prevented members from bringing in winter tents.
In California, after a morning sweep of the Occupy San Francisco encampment in that city’s financial district, 15 people were still in custody, said Eileen Hearst, chief of staff of the Sheriff’s Office.
Two were charged with felonies for allegedly assaulting police officers, while the 13 other people lacked identification, she said.
Paul Esperza, a San Francisco Police Department spokesman, said 64 other people had been cited and released, while 15 were booked into jail. Those with identification weren’t booked into jail, Hearst said.