Occupy Catch-22: Boston Cops Throw Out the Kitchen Sink

Boston Police move in swiftly and with heavy force to remove a sink from Occupy Boston

Yes, it has come to this — cops and Occupy protestors at one of the last major encampments in the United States are fighting over a kitchen sink.

Boston police moved in with heavy force on Thursday’s General Assembly meeting in Boston’s Dewey Square to remove a DIY grey-water sink intended to help Occupy Boston members wash their dishes and comply with sanitation requirements that the city says the encampment is violating.

But the Boston cops who surround the Financial camp day and night enforce an embargo on anything durable entering the camp. So after Occupiers gang-rushed the 10-foot-long industrial sink into the camp Thursday night, the cops forced their way into the camp to remove the ‘contraband.’

One officer guarded the sink, while he was surrounded by a cold and frustrated crowd chanting, “Let us do the dishes!”

The protesters, whom the city has claimed are unable to maintain a healthy and safe area for the Occupy, have been frustrated in their attempts to comply with a Boston PD policy that designates everything that isn’t clothing and food as “construction material” and bans it from entering the Occupy.

The Occupy Boston blog explained on Friday morning:

We are being blocked from replacing our tents with flame-retardant, winterized tents; from adding stability to our fraying walkways; and from protecting the health and safety of our community. Meanwhile, the city, the fire marshal, and the Board of Health testify that we must address these issues. We’re still figuring out how to make sense of this.

Protestors linked arms and surrounded the sink to block police from removing it, using the people’s mic to ask the police to cite the law they were enforcing. The officers remained silent — except for calling for backup, which soon appeared in abundance.

Special operations officers marched in and lifted the industrial-sized sink over the heads of seated protesters, then rushed it back out to the street where they loaded it in a police transport vehicle. The sink proved about two feet too long for the truck, and remained so, despite the repeated shoving of several officers.

Protestors, routed at the camp, ran into the street ahead of the police. They regrouped and locked arms in front of the truck as it tried to leave. While two officers guarded the still-dangling sink, other police formed a line arm-to-arm in front of the truck, resulting in a face-off.

Police and protester lines face off in a conflict over a sink, Thursday night.

Eventually, protestors relented and let the truck leave.

One man was arrested for assaulting a police officer, and the camp medics aided a women who reported by that she’d been struck by a police van, and appeared to have a dislocated knee. She was taken from the scene by ambulance.

Boston mayor Thomas Menino gave a visibly agitated interview on the subject to local news Friday morning.

“I’m not going to allow them to put up a kitchen sink in the occupied area of the city of Boston,” Menino said. “It’s beyond their rights. We’ll let them stay there; we’re not going to have them build a new town there.”

Mayor Menino and the Boston PD continue, for the moment, to “let them stay there” by generously obeying a restraining order issued against them by the Suffolk Superior Court that’s in effect until at least Dec. 15.

This post is part of a special series from Quinn Norton, who is embedding with Occupy protestors and going beyond the headlines with Anonymous for Wired.com. For an introduction to the series, read Quinn’s description of the project.

Photos: Quinn Norton/Wired