AS CITIES across the United States move one by one to evict protesters inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, Boston stands increasingly alone. Unlike the mayors of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York, Mayor Menino says he has no plans to boot the protesters, who have been camped out in Dewey Square for more than two months.
It’s the right policy. The protest is spreading an important message about income inequality, and Boston should allow it to stay as long as it poses no severe burden on the city. The act of camping in public, in the heart of the city’s financial district, is part of the message, and taps into a tradition of protest with deep historical roots from the Bonus March of the Great Depression to the anti-apartheid movement.
Nonetheless, the city is justified in seeking clarity on the scope of the injunction preventing it from removing the protesters, a hearing that was delayed until Dec. 15. Whether, and under what circumstances, authorities can remove the protesters has to be treated as a separate question from whether it should. The city is right to defend its ability to uphold public health and safety regulations.
There were disturbing allegations raised in the initial court hearing on Thursday that the camp had attracted drug dealers, and that sanitary conditions were slipping. The city can legitimately insist that the campers clean up their act. But as long as the protesters don’t pose a broader threat to public safety, the city should buck the national trend and let them stay where they are.