Protests, First Night and Boston Getting it Wrong

I’ll tell you right up front as I start this that I’m as much of a fan of First Night here in Boston as I am of the 4th of July.  Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that I hate the crowds and accompanying stupidity for both just as much, but what the 4th stands for matters more to me.  And, I’ve never been able to figure out why they call the celebration of the last night of the year First Night.

Anyway, New Year’s Eve here in Boston is celebrated with a giant city-wide party.  You can buy a button that will get you into all kinds of things for free.  There are concerts, ice sculptures, fireworks, skating, dancing, face painting, puppet shows, museums, all sorts of things.  The list is almost endless and it is entirely impossible to do it all in one evening.  This has been happening as long as I’ve been living here and, though it nearly went bankrupt and stopped happening a year or so ago, it is back with a vengeance now.

Enter politicians and police to screw it all up.

You see, as we’ve become a Security Theatre Civil Rights Stealing obsessed society in this tiny non-target of a city that really does think it is The Hub Of The Universe, things have gotten nuttier and nuttier around here.  Certainly, the Marathon Bombing did absolutely nothing to help Boston’s generally overblown sense of self worth-as-a-terror target.

Recent events with protests stemming from the failures of the grand juries in the Brown and Garner cases also seem to have convinced the Boston pols and police that this city is OMG GOING TO BLOW.  Ahem.  While I was sick at home and couldn’t attend what all involved admitted were peaceful protests that were designed to inconvenience people, I know people who did go.  There was no tear gas, there was no violence, there was walking, singing, chanting, and call and response.

Were people trying to disrupt traffic and the city tree lighting?  Yes.  Were they trying to make a point?  Yes.  Is a traffic disruption on the T or on the highway a larger problem than murdered men and systemic racism that’s gone on unanswered since the Civil War?  NO.

And here’s where things get gnarly.  There was a press conference today at City Hall in Boston.  It was, as usual, expertly covered by the Boston Weekly Dig, fully aware of the pompous self-important smoke being blown by the bloviating pols on the stage.  This die-in has been planned for tomorrow.  It isn’t a secret, it’s on Facebook, and while it might be a little inconvenient, the world isn’t going to end.

Check out what happened in the meeting when it was brought up.  Quotes are from here, I encourage you to read the whole thing.

“We’re going to accommodate the protesters if they choose to do so,” Evans said to the cameras. “If people are going to demonstrate they should realize there are a lot of families out there.” The commissioner added that he wouldn’t want to see the party spoiled, and for a split second, there seemed a genuine regard for those participating in the organized die-in and other protests.

And then this, the real money line.  Boldface mine.

“The majority of the community is behind the police force,” declared Evans. As for demonstrators: “It’s not the community that is going to be up in arms protesting. This is for the most part people from outside the city who want to come in and protest.”

Uh, Bill?  I know you were born and raised here, but something here smells wrong.  Either you’re being intentionally obtuse or you really don’t get it.  Or you’re politically dyslexic and you’ve got it backwards.  You see, Bill, people don’t travel in from the burbs to join in protests like these.  With certain exceptions (marches on Washington and New York come to mind) people protest where they live.  I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to go out and freeze my behind off in the cold and dark, I’m going to do it in my city where my politicians are.

Here’s the other bit.  The people that do come in from the burbs and other states?  They’re the ones going to First Night.  Seriously, just like no sane Bostonian would ever go to the Esplanade for the 4th, nobody who actually lives here goes to First Night except for recently graduated college students who are too drunk to feel the cold.

I don’t have facts, figures, and data to back this up.  I’ve got almost 20 years of living in Boston and experience with the people, the traffic, and the holidays that tell me I’m right.  I also know that the only guy who wanted to blow this town up was someone who lived here long enough that his crazy came to full flower here.  So, uh, Bill?  You might want to worry more about the drunk out of towners referenced in the article above than the peaceful protesters, some of whom protest on New Year’s Eve every year.  Yes, every single year.

Me?  I’m going to spend my New Year’s Eve recovering from yet another day of screaming children and poor parenting with comfort food and the BBC Radio broadcasts of Good Omens.

~Kelly

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