Shutting T stations after protests only creates dangerous situations for people who just want to get home, several Boston city councilors said today.
But the council did not formally go on record with a resolution calling on the T to stop shutting stations near vigil and protest sites at their regular Wednesday meeting because two councilors objected, which means it will instead go to a council committee for a hearing before the council votes.
Councilors Michelle Wu (at large), Julia Mejia (at large) and Kenzie Bok (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Mission Hill) proposed a two-part resolution, one to keep stations open so people can get home after protests, one to urge the T to continue its new policy of not letting police use T buses to get to protests.
Bok, who said she spent several hours on Boston Common during Sunday's protests, said she was outraged that thousands of people exercising their First Amendment rights could not easily get home because the T shut down its stations downtown.
"It was a huge error of judgment," she said, adding she received numerous calls from her Back Bay constituents about young people streaming down the Commonwealth Avenue Mall trying to leave the Common after the Common vigil ended and the stations were shut. If anything, by making it harder for all those people to disperse, the station shutdowns made the situation downtown more dangerous, she said.
Councilor Ed Flynn (South Boston, South End, Downtown, Chinatown) agreed that protesters need a safe way to get home but added that police and other first responders need a safe way to get to potential trouble spots as well.
Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester), angrily denounced the resolution. He said what he watched on TV Sunday night "looked like a riot to me" and that he is not about to tell the T to keep stations open to rioters. "Police were getting beat up, outnumbered by protesters and advocates," and all it would have taken was a single person on the tracks downtown to disable the entire T system the whole night.
Councilor Michael Flaherty (at large) said he supported all of the resolution but the last clause, which calls on the T to "not to delegate command of transit employees, vehicles, facilities, and other resources, or delegate decision making about its service and operations to law enforcement." God forbid Boston have a 9/11 - and he noted some of the participants flew from Logan - another Marathon bombing or an active-shooter situation where police need to get to a location quickly, or get people away from one. You can't call for a committee to consider that, he said, adding the real issue is that Boston does not have a seat at the MBTA table currently, despite sending $85 million a year to the authority.
Bok, Wu and Councilor Lydia Edwards (North End, Charlestown, East Boston) said the idea is not to prohibit the T from giving first responders access to buses in a true emergency, but that Sunday night was no 9/11 and that the T should be doing what it can to get people home. Wu added that letting police shut the stations after a protest that was about police mistreatment of black people was the wrong message to send.
Before voting on the resolution, the council first had to suspend its rules, which call for all new items to go to a committee first. That particular rule requires a unanimous vote to suspend the other rule. Baker and Flaherty voted against suspending the rules, the other 11 councilors voted in favor.
But since the rule requires a unanimous vote, the proposed resolution will instead go to a committee for discussion.