One day after Mayor Michelle Wu signed a controversial proposal that curtailed the hours protesters could target a private home, five demonstrators were fined near Wu’s Roslindale home for violating the new rules.
Wu signed the city ordinance into law on Thursday, a day after the Boston City Council approved it. Wu, who was sworn in in November, introduced the hotly debated proposal following months of near daily anti-vaccination protests outside the two-family house she shares with her husband, two children, and mother.
The new rule bars demonstrations at any private home between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. Previously, Boston’s restrictions on noise effectively restricted demonstrators from loud protests before 7 a.m. or after 11 p.m.
Boston police confirmed that five people were fined for violating the new ordinance at about 7:30 a.m. Friday.
Under the new rules, there are fines of $50 for a first offense, $150 for a second offense within a 12-month period, and $300 for a third and subsequent offenses. The fine structure resets after 12 months. According to the city, the ordinance does not affect marches or protests passing through residential areas, just demonstrations that are directed at individual residences or residents. It applies to any residence, not just the homes of elected officials.
One of those who have protested outside Wu’s home, Catherine Vitale, said in a Friday statement that police found out the ordinance was in effect moments before they notified protesters they were in violation of the new rules.
“Therefore it is impossible for protesters to have known the unconstitutional ordinance was in effect, too,” she said.
The protesters, she said, “have retained an attorney and will be suing Mayor Wu yet again.”
Wu has framed the consistent, early-morning ruckus as harassment, a feeling many of her neighbors in the usually quiet part of the city share. But critics of the new rules, including several who routinely picket outside the mayor’s home, say the restrictions would unfairly curb First Amendment rights.
Wu has argued the ordinance would preserve peace and quiet without infringing on protesters’ right to demonstrate. In an earlier letter to the council, her legal team asserted that the ordinance “will be in conformance with law.”
Some city councilors raised concerns over the proposal. Councilor Frank Baker, who opposed the measure, said it was a direct response to demonstrations targeting Wu and worried that the city was infringing on First Amendment rights. Another councilor who voted against it, Kendra Lara, said in a statement that the ordinance “could have unintended consequences for marginalized communities who use protest and direct action as a tactic to secure rights for themselves and resources for their community,”
For weeks, a small group of protesters who opposed Wu’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for city workers gathered outside her home, banging drums, blowing whistles, and shouting starting at 7 a.m. Wu has said she tries not to take the protests personally, but laments the disruption for her neighbors and family.
Some of the pushback to Wu’s attempts at a vaccination mandate for the city workforce has been racist and misogynistic. Wu became the first woman and first person of color elected mayor of Boston last fall.
The battle over the workforce vaccination mandate has also spilled into the courts, with her administration in February appealing a court ruling that blocked enforcement of the requirement for a trio of public safety unions.
Danny McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.