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Former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn Recalls Sheltering Polish Sailors At City Hall

BOSTON (CBS) – If Mayor Marty Walsh were to open the doors of Boston City Hall to immigrants as he said earlier this week, it wouldn't be the first time the building has been used as shelter from federal officials.

In a column Friday in the Boston Herald, former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn recalls a time in 1989 when 40 Polish sailors arrived at City Hall seeking asylum.

On Wednesday, Walsh spoke out against President Donald Trump's immigration plan, saying "if necessary we will use City Hall itself to shelter and protect anyone who is targeted unjustly."

In his column, Flynn said Walsh deserves the support he had in sheltering the Polish sailors, adding that "when laws are unjust, whether they discriminate against people or violate their human rights, they must be challenged."

Flynn told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Carl Stevens the sailors came to Boston after being oppressed by the communist Polish government.

Volunteers brought in cots to City Hall, giving the sailors somewhere to sleep until they were taken in by families around New England.

"(Federal authorities) stayed there all night long. They just assumed (the sailors) wouldn't be staying at City Hall and they'd come out, and that's when they'd nab them," Flynn recalled. "But (authorities) stayed at City Hall, they stayed there the next day and I guess they got tired and went away. We went out the back door anyway."

Some of the sailors stayed at City Hall for 2-3 nights, though some went to their new homes after the first night.

Attorneys processed the sailors for no charge so they could receive their citizenship, Flynn said, while recalling how the smell of Polish food filled City Hall.

"Women from the neighborhoods showed up with food, Polish food," said Flynn. "The place didn't smell like City Hall, it smelled beautiful. Polish kielbasa and cabbage at 6 o'clock in the morning. It was quite a scene."

Flynn said he was proud of the way the city responded to the arrival of the sailors.

"It was a real tribute to the people of Boston," said Flynn.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Carl Stevens reports

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