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Two protesters arrested at State House

State Police on Tuesday arrested two people at the Massachusetts State House who authorities said were part of a group protesting new rules that visitors must provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before entering the building.

Shawn Nelson, 43, of Boston, and Michelle Efendi, 35, of Randolph, were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct after they tried to “physically move through” court officers stationed at a makeshift security checkpoint outside the State House, a State Police spokesman said.

The arrests, a recording of which appeared to be livestreamed on Facebook, came a week after the State House reopened to the public. The building had been closed to visitors for more than 700 days after legislative leaders shuttered it early in the pandemic.

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Nelson and Efendi were among roughly 10 demonstrators outside the State House shortly after noon, said David Procopio, a State Police spokesman. A roughly hourlong video posted Tuesday on a Facebook page belonging to a Shawn Nelson showed a group arguing with state troopers and other security personnel outside the building about the requirements to enter.

At one point, a man recording the situation repeatedly chanted “Let us in!” when a state trooper told him he was touching two court officers who were blocking the path through the checkpoint.

“I’m touching them. Wow,” the man said.

“You’re pushing them,” the trooper responded.

“Trust me,” the man said, “if I was pushing, all three of you would go back.”

The trooper can be heard telling him to “back up, or you’re going to be arrested.”

“OK,” the man replied. The trooper then appeared to put him in handcuffs.

Nelson was also charged with assault and battery on a public employee and Efendi faced an additional charge of assault, Procopio said.

Both were released later Tuesday on personal recognizance and ordered to stay away from the State House after their arraignments in Boston Municipal Court, according to the Suffolk district attorney’s office. Both are due back in court on May 29.

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Efforts to reach Efendi, Nelson, and their attorneys were not successful Tuesday.

Under guidelines released by state officials last month, visitors age 5 or older are required to show proof they’re vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide a negative test from within the last day to enter the building. Masks are also required in all common spaces within the State House.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Ronald Mariano said the Quincy Democrat “has been prioritizing safety while also ensuring everyone has equal access” to the building in crafting the rules for entering. “These requirements are temporary and being reviewed regularly.”

Senate President Karen E. Spilka told reporters Monday that officials are following hospitalization rates and other indicators in deciding whether to ease the requirements. “The data is changing so rapidly,” the Ashland Democrat said.

In late January, small groups of demonstrators disrupted a Boston City Hall meeting and appeared at the State House in early February when it was still closed to the public, although it was not clear if they were the same group or shared members with those who demonstrated at the State House on Tuesday.

Efendi spoke to The Boston Globe last month after she posted videos of herself with another woman in a room at the Boston Public Library’s Hyde Park branch, telling security officers that they wouldn’t wear masks. Video of the encounter showed children nearby.

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At the time, Efendi told the Globe the state has “accommodation laws” that ban discrimination and described herself as a victim of harassment by library staff who demanded she wear a mask.

Efendi has also demonstrated outside the Roslindale home of Mayor Michelle Wu, who has proposed restricting picketing targeted at individual residences between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. after early-morning protests have disrupted her neighborhood since January.

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him @mattpstout.