Going to Post-Election Protests? Don’t Count On the T

Protesters gather on the Boston Common on May 31, 2020 at a protest against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user GorrillaWarfare, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.
Protesters gather on the Boston Common on May 31, 2020 at a protest against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user GorrillaWarfare, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

In downtown Boston, dozens of retailers have put up plywood in anticipation of possible post-election civil unrest. So far, that hasn’t come to pass – but officials, including the MBTA, are still preparing for a large mobilization of police and possible shutdowns on the MBTA.

At a press conference Wednesday morning, Boston Police Commissioner William Gross warned that “we have the backup in place – state, local, and federal – to handle anything that may become contentious.”

If you’re considering attending a protest, start thinking about contingency plans for getting home safely in case the T isn’t available.

The MBTA, whose Transit Police came under heavy criticism earlier this summer for shutting down downtown subway stations after major protests against police brutality earlier this summer, is leaving open the possibility that similar shutdowns could happen in the coming days.

In response to an inquiry about the T’s plans in the event of protests, MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo wrote that large protests could create “the potential for a service disruption (or) station closures.”

“A disorderly situation in a station poses significant risks… including contact with the third rail, potential to be struck by a moving vehicle, (or) injury to another rider or employee,” wrote Pesaturo.

Pesaturo stressed that the T would communicate any closures and alternative service options “as promptly as possible,” and that “the T’s planning includes measures to safely facilitate the movement of large crowds.”

At the same press conference on Wednesday morning, Mayor Marty Walsh asked demonstrators to be mindful of the pandemic. “If you’re gonna march in the streets, wear a mask. If you’re gonna demonstrate, wear a mask,” said the Mayor.

Later, the Mayor also asked demonstrators to adhere to the Governor’s latest stay-at-home advisory. “If there are demonstrations, I’m asking people to do it early, and be home by 9:30.  Again, it’s about other peoples’ health here… be respectful, and remember the coronavirus.”

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