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Some councilors worry ordinance to block early morning screaming outside mayor's house could be used against protesters of color elsewhere

Fernandes Anderson makes a point

Fernandes Anderson makes a point during hearing.

Three city councilors of color today expressed hesitancy over a proposed ordinance that would prohibit targeted protests outside the mayor's house early in the morning, saying that while they understand what it's like to be hit with racist bile, they're not sure they have enough faith in Boston Police to not then turn the rule against Black Lives Matter and other protesters.

In response to nine weeks of early morning bucket drumming and anti-vax screaming outside her Roslindale house, Mayor Wu has proposed an ordinance that would prohibit protests outside a specific individual's house between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. The city law department, which drafted the proposal, said it protects protesters' First Amendment rights while letting nearby residents get some peace.

This morning, to steel themselves up for a City Council hearing on the proposed ordinance, the screamers outside Wu's house broke out the bullhorns they'd said they would no longer use to scream about how Wu is a "child molester," a "mass murderer" and a "serial killer" - loudly enough that people living along Cummins Highway, several blocks away, heard them.

During the Zoom hearing, City Councilor Kendra Lara (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) started by saying she knows what it's like to be targeted for harassment - she said she couldn't campaign in parts of her district last year because of death threats.

But she said the city already has a noise ordinance and that she is not sure she trusts Boston Police enough to not start using the new ordinance against Black and Brown protesters on other issues.

"We can't trust they'll be enforced equitably," she said. The ordinance as written, she said, could have "unintended consequences for marginalized communities."

"Protests are meant to be disruptive," she said. After Council President Ed Flynn questioned how much the anti-Wu demonstrations have cost BPD, she said, "the Montgomery bus boycott cost the government a bunch of money." And yet, she continued, even with existing ordinances, the city has had large protests by women where nobody was arrested and large, equally peaceful BLM protests where 200 were arrested.

Still, Lara said that what is going on at Wu's house is not really protesting, but a small group of people basically harassing and threatening Wu, and more could be done to protect her and her neighbors. "Threatening someone's home is not a protest," she said.

"The noise ordinance does not get enforced at all unless you are White and calling in a Black neighborhood," agreed Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson (Roxbury).

Councilor Julia Mejia (at large) said she also knows what it's like to be targeted with hatred, but said "it's part of the job" and that she cannot support something that would infringe on First Amendment rights.

Councilor Ricardo Arroyo (Roslindale, Hyde Park, Mattapan), who represents Wu's neighborhood, recalled how, as a child, he would pick up the phone to death threats after his father came out against the Iraq war. But he supported the proposal, saying it is a measured approach that lets protesters exercise their First Amendment rights while letting residents who have nothing to do with the mayor live their lives peacefully.

And answering Lara's and Mejia's concerns, he continued, people of color have never targeted a single person's house for week after week of yelling. "I have never seen folks of color do this," he said.

Also supporting the measure: Ed Flynn, who said he remains convinced that the reason the protests against Wu have become as loud and disruptive as they are, in a way that protests against past mayors, including his father, never were: Because unlike her white, male predecessors, Wu is a woman of color.

"That also has to be part of the discussion," he said. "It's the white elephant in the room."

Councilor Erin Murphy (at large) also opposed infringement on what she said were people's First Amendment rights, although she added that "anything threatening or harassing behavior should never be tolerated."

Councilor Michael Flaherty (at large) reserved his ire for the city law office, which did not send anybody to the hearing. He wondered if the city's lawyers, who drafted the proposal "were just listening in or underneath their desks" and demanded to know just how many lawyers the city employs and how much they pay for them. Wu's chief of civic engagement did attend the hearing, but she could not answer any specific police-enforcement or legal questions, saying she would refer those to the departments.

One of the first members of the public to speak was Nina Lev, who lives near Wu's house. She said that in addition to the protesting affecting people in their homes, even with the windows shut, when residents do dare venture outside, some of the ranters will go up to them and "accost us with conspiracy theories about the mayor."

She was then followed by several of the protesters themselves who said Wu made them protest outside her house by refusing to meet with them. She is shirking her duties by refusing to meet with them, they said, failing to consider whether calling her a child abuser and a dictator, as they did during the hearing, if more quietly than on the street, might be one of the reasons why.

Shana Cottone, a suspended BPD sergeant currently suing the city for $6 million because of the shame of being refused service at a Fenway pizza place because she wasn't vaccinated, said the city should be concentrating on its real noise problems: The thousands of complaints about loud parties the city gets every year. She criticized Arroyo, who chaired the hearing, for holding it just on Zoom rather than having a hearing in person at City Hall.

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Comments

"It's the white elephant in the room."

I didn't know Ed Flynn mixes metaphors.

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I had to laugh when I read that. He didn't totally shoot off his own foot, but damned if he didn't seem to be trying.

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I mean I get the point that yes, you don't want to make a law that's going to have unintended consequences for an oppressed group, but, like... the cops will already harass Black and brown people unfairly and to a disproportionate degree. And they're allowed to do it. Passing this law or not isn't going to suddenly unleash a floodgate of bad behavior that was previously held at bay by the BPD (and aren't the city council their bosses? like... if they are admitting this is a problem, they COULD do something about it....).

If a cop wants to screw around with a person of color they have "loitering", "suspicious behavior", "looking like a totally different PoC that somewhere, at some point, committed a crime possibly", "public drunkenness", and, my favorite, resisting arrest. Why were they being arrested? It doesn't matter, they resisted so now there's a crime to arrest them for. Arroyo is 100% correct that PoC don't and wouldn't do this stupidity because they know it wouldn't matter if it was against the law or not, they'll already get hassled and arrested and possibly assaulted for doing it.

Also, they have real problems to worry about that aren't Michelle Wu is a Commie Spy who Drinks Fetus Blood or whatever the hell QAnon is convinced of today.

This law is less an excuse for cops to harass Black folk and more a tool to force them to, possibly, if they're in a very good mood and the caller asks very nicely, force white people to obey the law and stop screaming obscenities in a residential neighborhood at 7am when children are headed to school.

Good on Ed Flynn for pointing out the obvious.

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This ordinance has the potential to stifle dissent and free expression. I think we should all pay attention to see what gets enacted.

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“She is shirking her duties by refusing to meet with them, they said, failing to consider whether calling her a child abuser and a dictator, as they did during the hearing, if more quietly than on the street, might be one of the reasons why.”

So because people called her names she can take away their first amendment rights? After decades of supporting all the left wing democrat candidates I could find, witnessing the political shift in this country the last few years has been nothing short of amazing. Or maybe I missed a memo. Has the left always supported silencing dissent? This is step one in removing democracy.

Also, when did the left become shills for big pharma?

How about supporting segregation and race based hiring practices? When did this become okay again? WTF

When did they shift to thinking dumbing down public school education was a good thing? (See Newton drop in enrollment, as well as Boston and others)

When did the side that was supposedly filled with individuals of higher tolerance and education become nothing but hate spewing classists and racists? (See nearly all comments on this site)

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lol what does the fact that millennials just aren't having kids at the same rate and therefore school age population is dropping have to do with OMG PROGRESSIVES ARE FASCISTS NOW? seems like you're throwing spaghetti at the wall, my man.

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It is true that some progressives are now cheering on and encouraging the silencing of dissent. I always thought seeing mobs of people getting Ann Coulter to shut up was hilarious, but after further years of living I can see that this is a very slippery slope with a dangerous ending.
As for the schools, I was just ranting on the demise of public education as a person from a large family of public educators because it is more disappointment from the people I thought would do better. The fact that it is happening even in places like Newton Massachusetts is sad. Speak to families in Newton and they will tell you the education has changed since the pandemic and is not returning to previous standards, just like in Boston.

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After decades of supporting all the left wing democrat candidates I could find...

Your phrasing tells me that you are not voting for Democrats. Whatever validity other points in your comment may have, when you lie like that, I stop reading.

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Your response is the exact problem right now. You don’t want to believe that I am an independent citizen who can think away from party talking points and disagree with a party I have voted for my whole life. I think Bernie Sanders got jobbed twice, for the record. But nothing I say will matter to you because you believe what you want to believe. I have been hoping for more from democrats for years and now they are just going off the rails and do not see why they continue to fall short. I hope everyone is ready for the reality of what comes in November and the fact that Trump could easily win again in 2024 because of the ridiculous amount of free press he gets from the media every single day. CNN and late night talk shows are pumping him out there every single day and night. It’s almost like they want him back. It’s awful and pathetic and should all stop immediately. The man has been shut down on the internet and could be never heard from again and yet they continue to give him free press constantly. Why is this? We are all being played by a two party system that does nothing but serve itself. Divide and conquer.
I expect more from my elected officials as well as those who vote for them. If anyone here thinks it is okay to TAKE AWAY FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS, then it is you who are fascist and hopefully you will someday realize this fact.

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This wouldn't limit what people can say or where they can say it. It would just put reasonable limits on the hours they can scream and harass a whole neighborhood. I could see objecting if the allowed time was a two hour window. But saying it's fine for 12 hours of the day seems like more than enough time for people to express their opinions.

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I supported Dennis Kucinich over John Kerry

This is the stuff that is mind blowing these days. I have become right wing to people like yourself simply for not spouting democrat talking points.

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...found the DARVO queen.

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and maybe you will see

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I see fine. I see concern trolling wrapped up in a bunch of scary language.

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In what way is it acceptable to you to present the reality of the situation in the Democratic Party? Less scary words?

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...skipping the laughable strawman arguments.

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You think the Democratic Party is good to go for this coming November and 2024? Just presenting reality. Not trying to divert.

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What's your dog in this hunt, how do you define "good to go", and how is what you're doing here NOT a derail?

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Good to go means all set and without worry. As in we are good to go and will win without a problem.

I bring up the state of the Democratic Party (my registered party) because it absolutely applies to the decisions Michelle Wu is making regarding limiting the first amendment rights of those she opposes. Can you imagine trump limiting the rights of protesters? I think people on this site would be quite upset about that, myself included. These decisions have repercussions in elections and I’m not sure some of these current politicians or their constituents realize this outside of their bubbles.

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Good to go means all set and without worry. As in we are good to go and will win without a problem.

Oh, you sweet summer child. No political party is ever "good to go and will win without a problem."

I bring up the state of the Democratic Party (my registered party) because it absolutely applies to the decisions Michelle Wu is making regarding limiting the first amendment rights of those she opposes.

Skip the shade and tell us exactly how it applies then.

Can you imagine trump limiting the rights of protesters?

Oddly enough, yes, I can.

I think people on this site would be quite upset about that, myself included.

But you see, there's a very big difference. St. John's Church was fine with the presence of the protesters.

These decisions have repercussions in elections and I’m not sure some of these current politicians or their constituents realize this outside of their bubbles.

I could be wrong, but if you really think that the electorate is going to vote Michelle Wu out because of restrictions on screaming and pot-banging outside a residential house at all hours, you may be the one in the bubble.

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You’re a hard person to talk to. Very combative.

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The mask mandate has been lifted; the proof of vaccination mandate has been lifted; what are they protesting about?

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Some people are just generic protestors. I am still trying to figure out what those 5-6 people who have gathered near Park Street on the Common every Saturday for about 40 years now are protesting about.

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Just go back a review what Ed Flynn said.

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I agree that POC are not treated equally by the police. However, in this case, the point is that nobody (of any background) should be protesting outside a public official's house in the early or late hours. It seems like this law is being written to be very black and white (definitely no pun intended) such that no matter what position your are advocating about, if you are outside the hours, you are breaking the law.

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If Mayor Janey were dealing with this and made the same proposal, some of the responses of the councilors would be different.

That said, I do think that they are seeing the possible first amendment issues with this, regardless of other aspects.

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If Mayor Janey were dealing with this

Acting Mayor.

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Show us on the doll where Mayor Janey hurt you.

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The people who insist on adding "Acting" to Janey's title or the people who are angry when that fact is noted.

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We're more humorous together, like pairing whine and cheese.

That said, your perspective is inverted; it's not insisting on "adding" Acting to the title, but insisting on "not removing" Acting from the title.

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I want to scream at 6am
This seems to be the latest trend
I have something to say
And say it all day
Rules bad for me, good for them

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And yet, she continued, even with existing ordinances, the city has had large protests by women where nobody was arrested and large, equally peaceful BLM protests where 200 were arrested.

Are we just making shit up at hearings and treating these claims as facts?

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There is no marginalized group's interests being promoted here, and they're harassing and threatening the mayor at her home where she lives with her family. As Councilor Lara said, there are plenty of other laws that could be invoked to charge these people (and would run less risk of setting precedent for charging actual protestors).

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You do know what a protest and protesting in general are, right?

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How can police misuse this law against anyone who obeys it? If you’re protesting between 9 am and 9 pm, how could you get charged with protesting between 9 pm and 9 am?

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they're not sure they have enough faith in Boston Police to not then turn the rule against Black Lives Matter and other protesters.

If the fear is the police will abuse their power, spend more time addressing that problem directly.

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The fear is that the law will be applied to protests that they support.

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It's only a protest if you don't agree with the protesters.

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