No Blood at Occupy Boston

I don’t know why everyone thought the BPD would show up with billy clubs at midnight last night and beat the Occupy Boston protesters into a pulp.

Beyond those spoiling for a fight (and there were people on both sides), it would be ridiculous for a big-city mayor, especially one with nearly two decades of experience, to formally announce a beatdown so every sharp-elbowed newscaster with a gasmask could stream the action live to your living room.

Here’s how you know Menino is doing a good job: impassioned folks on both sides (the protesters and the Boston Herald commenter peanut gallery) think he’s doing a terrible job. When we look back on December 8, 2011, and the Occupy Boston movement, it will be obvious that Menino played it like a pro.

For the most part (so far), Menino has been transparent about what he wants. So when he issued the order to vacate on December 7, following flip-flopping Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frances McIntryre’s decision to overturn her own twice-upheld decision to protect the protesters (side note: who got to her?), he knew what would happen: The protesters would put out the call and thousands would descend on Dewey Square, but not before the encamped could decide its own future.

That’s exactly what happened. By the countdown to Menino’s midnight deadline, well over half the encampment had been disassembled, leaving lots of mud in the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

The mayor’s signal also divided protesters into two groups. There was the small kernel (about 50 by my count) discussing human-chain tactics and angling for arrest as their sign of ultimate dedication. Then there were the others (Veterans for Peace, clergy holding forth with sermons, anarchists with facial piercings, the homeless, and a lots and lots of college students), who filled sidewalks on both sides of Atlantic Avenue with shouts, slogans, signs-held-high. Their ultimate goal, it seems, is to carry the Occupy momentum out of Dewey Park and into the next election.

But I also sensed, among the majority there, that it was time to pack up the encampment, to shift to a second phase before the occupation becomes the movement’s end, rather than its means. Last night’s party (which is how it felt when a marching band showed up and people took to the streets to “When the Saints Go Marching In”; I half-expected the song would be “Auld Lang Syne”) seemed like the celebratory ending of the direct action phase.

Even the protesters were ready to admit the phase change. It was implicit in their message projected onto a wall backing Dewey Square: “You can’t evict an idea.”