A judge extended Occupy Boston protesters’ restraining order against the city of Boston until Dec. 15, giving the court time to determine whether or not the city will be given permission to evict protesters from their encampment in Dewey Square.
In a hearing that lasted nearly four hours, Judge Frances A. McIntyre of Suffolk County Superior Court heard opposing testimony from a representative of Occupy Boston and the Boston Fire Marshal.
Mayor Thomas Menino’s administration filed a 200-page complaint against Occupy Boston, seeking to retain the right to evict the protesters at any point.
The complaint raised concerns that the camp may pose health and safety issues, including fire hazards, health code violations and criminal activity.
Fire Marshal Bart Shea testified that the encampment is a “chaotic scene” and said the scene is full of fire hazards that could endanger both protesters and passersby.
Protesters countered this by saying that they had complied with all of the orders of the city government and that many of the problems raised in the complaint had not been taken directly to the protesters.
Kristopher Eric Martin, the Occupy Boston protester who testified, said the continuation of the movement’s occupation of Dewey Square was necessary to get across their message. He said the city of Boston was outside of their rights by trying to bar them from continuing their occupation.
“No one has the authority to control what individuals do outside of the democratic voting process,” Martin said.
Jennie Seidewand, a 24-year-old protester and one of the plaintiffs who filed the original suit against the city, said in an interview outside the courtroom that the complaint the city filed contained many concerns that she had never heard expressed prior to its filing.
“If they bring us concerns, we will try to address them,” Seidewand said. “We want to work with them. I’m hoping for the best.”
Outside of the courtroom, a crowd of Occupy protesters who had not been allowed into the courtroom due to space constraints expressed frustrations with not being allowed to sit in on a hearing for a cause they have dedicated themselves to.
Joan Schwartz, 65, of Brookline, visits the Dewey Square campsite several times a week and frequently marches with Occupy Boston.
“I think it’s a smokescreen,” Schwartz said of the city’s complaint against protesters. “Occupy threatens the status quo, and the Mayor is subject to pressure from all kinds of corporations that want to get rid of us, just like in other cities.”
“Any thinking person can clearly see that the issues we’re bringing up are right,” Schwartz added. “Menino is a guy of the people. Surely he understands that. But I’m also sure he’s received enormous pressure from corporations.”
Grove Harris, of Cambridge, said she visits Dewey Square a few times a week and has also marched with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City.
She said attending the hearing, even though she was unable to get into the courtroom, was an important way of supporting the movement.
“Occupy is creating an opening for a major conversation,” Harris said. “We’re at a very critical moment in history with this opportunity being created, and we’re all responsible for showing up to support it.”