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Protesters dismiss city costs

Police expenses rise to $146,000

Occupy Boston demonstrators said yesterday that they do not regret costing the city about $146,000 in police overtime to monitor the group, arguing that the funds pale in comparison to the burden of taxpayer-financed wars and corporate bailouts.

“I never thought about that,’’ said Laurel Byrne-Macmillan, 31, a nurse from Gloucester, when asked about the cost. “But you know what? Democracy isn’t free. We have the right as citizens to inconvenience some people to get our point across, and that is one of the gifts this country gives to us.’’

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Boston police said yesterday that in the last two weeks, the department spent $146,189.55 on overtime to deal with the protesters, who along with demonstrators in several other US cities have been camped out near financial centers to air an array of grievances, including rising economic inequality.

Police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said about $60,000 of the overtime funds were spent Monday night and early Tuesday morning, when officers arrested about 140 people who allegedly tried to tie up traffic and refused to leave a large section of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.

She said that to date, Occupy Boston, which has set up camp around Dewey Square, has not diminished the department’s ability to respond to emergencies in other parts of the city.

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Thomas Joseph, 60, a retired teacher who lives on Beacon Hill, joined Occupy Boston for the first time yesterday and held a sign that said, “We are the 99% and so are you.’’

He also said he was not troubled by the overtime costs, “because I think this is the worthiest of causes.’’

Joseph said that he planned to return to the tent city every day for as long as it remains active and that the atmosphere reminds him of his first public demonstration in Boston, which he joined at age 14 to oppose a department store’s unwillingness to hire minority workers.

“It’s all one fight,’’ Joseph said. “It’s the same thing; it just changes form.’’

There was no immediate response last night to a request for comment on the police costs, sent by e-mail to the Occupy Boston media team.

Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, said last night that there is no timetable for removing the demonstrators.

“As long as they maintain a level of [orderly behavior], they will be allowed to remain there,“ she said.

Asked if Menino was concerned about the affect of the rising overtime costs on other city resources, Joyce said, “We’re going to have to look at everything as the year continues or as the time continues. Our obligation is to protect public safety, and we will.’’

Occupy Boston participant Julia Derk, 21, a senior at Brandeis University, said yesterday’s overtime figure is similar to the cost of a four-year degree at many US colleges. She also said she was more concerned about the federal government’s spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Wars are costing tremendously more than us peacefully protesting here,’’ Derk said.

Also yesterday, US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, stopped by the tent city for about 45 minutes to talk with demonstrators and police officers, her campaign said.

“Clearly she hears [the demonstrators’] frustration and understands the sentiments behind the movement,’’ said senior campaign adviser Doug Rubin.

He declined to comment on the overtime issue.

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