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15 arrested as protesters attempt to block Boston traffic during rush hour commute

15 arrested as protesters attempt to block Boston traffic during rush hour commute
15 arrested as protesters attempt to block Boston traffic during rush hour commute 02:03

BOSTON – Fifteen climate activists were arrested Wednesday as they attempted to block rush hour traffic in Boston Wednesday morning.

The environmental group Extinction Rebellion said it had planned to block four major traffic routes to protest fossil fuels.

"Locations were selected to clog the Central Artery of Boston to prevent employees from getting into the financial district and Seaport," the group said in a statement Wednesday.

They claimed more than 40 activists would be involved, "locking themselves to large pink metal barrels adorned with banners on top that read the messages of their demands to halt new fossil fuel infrastructure." 

Massachusetts State Police told WBZ they had a "detailed operations plan in place" and were "prepared to take enforcement action if necessary."  According to WBZ-TV's Breana Pitts, drivers said troopers were set up at almost every exit on Route 128 from Rockport to Reading and on Interstate 93 into Somerville.

Troopers later arrested five people for trespassing on the ramp from Leverett Circle to Route 93 in Boston around 7 a.m. They also seized two vehicles that were parked in travel lanes to block traffic. One was a pickup truck with three pink 55-gallon barrels in the back that police said the demonstrators were going to use as a road block.

Police removed a pickup truck as climate activists from the group Extinction Rebellion blocked traffic in Boston on September 21, 2022. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Another group sat on Summer Street while Boston Police stood around them, allowing one lane of traffic to get by, until 8 a.m. when the demonstrators left.

The spokesperson for the group told WBZ-TV's Anna Meiler they had to clear the road by 8 a.m. or they would all be arrested. 

A larger group also came to Post Office Square in Boston and then marched toward the Seaport as part of the protest while State Troopers followed them.

Around 8:30 a.m. the protesters stopped and blocked one side of the bridge leading to the Seaport from the Financial District. Some sat on the road while others stood holding signs. An organizer told WBZ-TV's Nick Giovanni they were going to try to stay there for an hour, but they moved on after 45 minutes.

"We have trained police liaisons whose responsibility is to communicate with the officers for us. They just make sure that no one here is doing anything that's an arrestable offense," organizer Teddy Ohea told reporters.

"We assured folks who were coming to this protest that this was not going to be something you could be arrested for. We make sure that the police liaisons are communicating with officers here so that everyone is being safe, no one is breaking any laws and they just make sure we're all on the same page." 

Boston Police later said they arrested ten demonstrators. The following people were charged with disorderly conduct:

  • Perry Thomas, 62, of Waltham
  • Nicholas Bryant, 32, of Boston
  • Allen McGonagill, 32, of Somerville
  • Andrew Iliff, 41, of Jamaica Plain
  • Paul Shannon, 75, of Somerville
  • Maria Ogden, 60, of Putney, Vermont
  • Benjamin Hayward, 24, of Castleton, Vermont
  • Samantha Hayward, 23, of Castleton, Vermont
  • John Burkhardt, 56, of Arlington
  • William Regan, 43, of Redondo Beach, California

State Police said the five protesters they arrested were 55-year-old Joseph Rogers of Lyndeborough, N.H., 64-year-old Grant Rockett of Jamaica Plain, 54-year-old Mark Dugan of Newton, 48-year-old Jennifer Smith of Watertown and 67-year-old Mary Hansen of Jamaica Plain.

"Our issue is not to make police lives difficult. Our issue is to draw attention to the crisis of climate change in a way that is effective for people who might not otherwise have a way to connect with it," said protester Jamie McGonnagill.

"We're seeing very little action on the state level and our house is on fire. So, we're the fire alarm," protester Leslie Dicola told reporters.

"I hear the urgency that so many activists feel and we're working as hard as we can every single day to make sure that the city of Boston is moving fast," Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. 

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