With West Roxbury Municipal Court on alert, BPD will be monitoring sound levels outside Mayor Wu's Roslindale house when she leaves for work this week to ensure that if protesters keep showing up to call her names, they do it at low volume.
BPD Superintendent Gerard Bailey told a City Council committee on Friday that the department has coordinated with officials at the courthouse to deal with any potential violations of the city noise ordinance - which bars sounds above 70 dB before 7 a.m., roughly when the mayor leaves for work each morning.
To date, Bailey told the committee, police have not cited anybody for anything at the protests, during which demonstrators have called Wu "Hitler" and a child abuser, screamed at her children that their mother will be going to prison and tried to follow her and her two sons as she took them to school. The screamers initially claimed to be upset about Wu's requirement that city employees get vaccinated against Covid-19, but then began yelling about how mask requirements at Boston public schools constitute child abuse.
Bailey said police have used a similar tactics as at other "First Amendment" demonstrations by trying to defuse and de-escalate things rather than arrest people - and to protect the mayor.
He said police have asked demonstrators to put away drums and whistles and that when they tried to follow Wu and her sons, five to six officers made a point of standing between the two sides.
"The mayor's safety, her children, are paramount to us," he said.
But, Bailey continued, over the last two weeks, the protesters have sort of dribbled away - they haven't been showing up every week day and even then, sometimes only one or two have appeared. However, that ended this morning, when some North End restaurant owners, upset at a city charge to use public sidewalks and streets for outdoor dining, journeyed to Roslindale.
Bailey spoke at a committee hearing, led by Councilor Ricardo Arroyo (Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale) on a proposal by the Wu administration to bar "targeted" picketing outside somebody's home between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., with fines of between $100 and $300 for violators.
Councilor Kendra Lara (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), who said she remains concerned the new ordinance could be turned against others - for example, people protesting against an eviction or even just gathering to remember somebody shot to death - questioned why police have yet to use existing laws, such as against harassment. She and other councilors said the issue is not just the effect on the mayor but on her neighbor's as well.
"I think we've moved beyond the First Amendment and protest at this point," and into the realm of criminal harassment, she said.
Councilors Ruthzee Loujeune (at large) and Erin Murphy (at large), who said she has an 80-year-old aunt who lives near the mayor's house, also worried about the impact on other sorts of protests, even one-off demonstrations.
Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson (Roxbury), said she would prefer police enforce existing laws without the council having to pass a new ordinance and wondered how we've gotten to this point.
"If our mayor was a white man, would this be the situation?" she asked, answering, "I believe that had she been of other demographic, she would not be having to face this issue."
She wondered who's paying these people who show up every single morning, and added, "Who does this? ... This is not picketing, this is totally different."
Council President Ed Flynn agreed, but said that was reason enough to pass the new ordinance.
"This is intentional harassment against the mayor," Flynn said. "It's trying to intimidate the mayor, it's trying to intimidate a woman of color. ... That's all this is."
Arroyo said the proposed law would still provide "12 hours of the day for you to go and do this outside say my mother's home and make her feel unsafe."
Bailey acknowledged that in his 33 years with BPD, he has never seen this sort of sustained, day after day protesting outside one person's house.
Bailey said that police have yet to see enough "probable cause" to charge anybody outside the mayor's house - or more recently, outside Arroyo's mother's house, with criminal harassment. Wu or her neighbors could seek an anti-harassment order in court, if they could show three examples of such activity, but to date, none has done so.
Arroyo, who supports the proposed measure, said the new ordinance is not just about Wu - he noted that Flynn and his son have been targeted as well as his mother, and that family members and neighbors don't deserve to feel unsafe in their own homes. While the mayor has a complement of BPD officers protecting her, Flynn and his mother do not, he said. When the bucket bangers showed up at his mother's house - and then kept on yelling even after she told them he wasn't there and didn't live there, "she did not feel safe in that moment," he said. Police did eventually arrive at the scene.
The committee will continue work to fine-tune the language of the proposed ordinance before submitting it to the council as a whole for its vote. Louijeune asked Bailey to provide statistics on how many noise-ordinance citations BPD has issued across the city for all reasons in both the ten weeks since the protesters have been showing up at Wu's house and for the past year, the lawyers were also asked for details on how and where somebody could appeal a citation under the new ordinance and for guidance on some language tweaking in the proposed ordinance.
Watch the hearing: