PRESS CONFERECE Friday, Decmeber 16, 2011, 8:15 a.m. Boston Municipal Court, 24 New Chardon St., Boston

In the early hours of October 11, 2011, the Boston Police, acting on Mayor Menino’s orders to clear an Occupy Boston encampment from the Rose Kennedy Greenway, arrested and removed 142 peacefully assembled participants and supporters of the movement, plus one journalist and one National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Legal Observer. Those arrested were charged with the crimes of trespassing and unlawful assembly.

At their arraignments, many arrestees chose to accept the District Attorney’s offer to convert their criminal charges to a civil infraction and to pay a fine. Twenty individuals rejected this offer and pled not guilty to the charges. Nineteen of them will be in court on Dec. 16th for a pretrial conference. Lawyers from the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild are representing the group in their fight against these criminal charges.

Those in court on Friday reject the contention that they committed any crimes, and maintain that the police raid and mass arrest on the morning of October 11th was a violation of their constitutional rights of free speech and peaceable assembly. The criminal charge of trespassing is untenable in light of the fact that the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy had allowed Occupy Boston to be present on the Greenway. Further, the 2008 legistlative act which authorizes the Conservancy—a private, non-profit organization formed under the aegis of and responsible to the public, taxpayer-funded, Massachusetts Department of Transportation—to oversee and manage the space where the arrests occurred, mandates that “the greenway shall be treated as a public park and a traditional open public forum without limiting free speech” (Acts and Resolves of Massachusetts 2008, Ch. 308, Sec. 3a). As such, the allegation that individuals gathering in support of a cause were, in fact, doing anything other than exactly what this city space was designed for, is unsupportable. The October 11th protest was a peaceable assembly of activists exercising their constitutional right of free speech. The fact that these rights were violated is intolerable. That these rights were violated in Boston, a city that prides itself on a longstanding rejection of tyranny in favor of liberty, is profoundly disconcerting. Arrests of those who legally assemble to exercise their First Amendment rights must not happen again.