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City employee fired after taking part in I-93 protest

A city employee was fired Friday after being arrested for demonstrating in protests that blocked traffic and diverted an ambulance on Interstate 93 Thursday morning, officials said.

Nelli Ruotsalainen was charged on seven counts including resisting arrest as a result of the protest in Milton, said Bonnie McGilpin, a spokeswoman for Mayor Martin J. Walsh. The Boston Herald first reported the firing in Saturday’s paper.

According to the office of Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey, Ruotsalainen, 25, of Roxbury, pleaded not guilty in Quincy District Court Thursday to trespassing, throwing glass on a public way, willfully obstructing an emergency vehicle, conspiracy, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and throwing an object on a public way.


She was released on personal recognizance, Morrissey’s office said in a statement, and is expected to return to court April 9 for a pretrial conference.

The protests were held north of the city in Medford and south in Milton, where some demonstrators chained themselves to barrels filled with concrete. The protest shut down traffic on I-93 northbound, blocking an ambulance rushing an 82-year-old man to Boston Medical Center. The ambulance had to be diverted to a Brockton hospital.

The mayor’s office learned of Ruotsalainen’s involvement in the protest Thursday night, McGilpin said in a statement. The city conducted a hearing with Ruotsalainen Friday, and following the hearing, she was fired, the statement said.

“Mayor Walsh strongly respects the right to protest and the right to free speech, however [he] finds it unacceptable for a city employee to put public safety at risk,” the statement said.

Ruotsalainen had been employed with the city for about two months as a youth communications specialist with the Department of Youth Engagement and Employment.

Melissa Hanson can be reached at melissa.hanson@globe.com or on Twitter @Melissa__Hanson.