The New Unofficial #OccupyBoston PR Strategy, And How It's Winning

Occupy Boston a new tent arrives.

All Photos By Aaron Spagnolo . . . More Pics Here

I woke up early last Friday in Chicago, where I was covering that city's Occupiers and their push to move into a rented space. It was an exciting week, as the night before there'd been a heated general assembly, as well as news that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had possibly cancelled an event because of threats that students affiliated with the movement might protest.

Still despite those developments, I saw no mention of Occupy Chicago on any Windy City news cast Friday morning. Instead, the activists who I'd been covering for months back in Boston had followed me to Illinois – and bogarted the cycle. Halfway through a buttered bagel, I looked up at the tube only to see familiar Dewey Square squatters clinging to a steel sink and chanting “Let us do the dishes!”

I wasn't totally surprised. I'd assumed that all eyes were already on Boston since the day before, when Occupiers had their anticipated court sashay with the city. Still this was a significant feat – in addition to network and cable buzz all around the country, the sink showdown went viral thanks to lifts from Daily Kos and Wired, among others. All this with minimal arrests, violence, and injuries.

Occupy Boston a new tent arrives.

From there something clicked with the often savvy, yet sometimes self-destructive Occupy Boston info disseminators. As demonstrated at their inclusive off-camp assembly in Copley Square this past Saturday – attended by dozens of newly interested Occupiers – Hub operatives are actively showcasing that they're not the dirty and disorganized Neanderthals that bureaucrats have pegged them as.

With the sink, Occupiers highlighted the irony in claims that their encampment is unsanitary; the powers-that-be say that Dewey Square is infested, yet won't let them improve conditions (they've also yet to cite them for health-related violations). Similarly, despite claims that the camp is combustible, they're not permitted to install protective measures.

Today Occupiers gathered on the South Station side of Dewey for the arrival of a military tent the likes of which police have been instructed to keep out (along with any other building materials or so-called structures). This was no sneak job, like when their ninja unit smuggled in the current food tent two weeks ago. This was a PR job – announced days ahead of time.

Occupy Boston a new tent arrives.

Whereas the sink incident was a phenomenal lesson that evolved from a practical mission – to secure an apparatus with which to help clean dishes – the tent event was pure theater. Occupiers never intended to actually erect it or throw down with cops – they just wanted the press, whose attention they had after the sink story, to see first-hand how ridiculous police are being.

Beyond the symbolic cue of the tent, Occupy forces got an opportunity to debate inspectors and authorities in front of a crowd filled with reporters. On that front protesters also delivered a decisive beat-down, as Boston is essentially arguing that while it was alright to bring tents in before, that is no longer the case. The city's insincere stance was cherry-topped with its suggestion that Occupy secure permits.

This campaign can't go on forever, as looming decisions in county court – and ultimately at City Hall – will dictate the fate of Dewey Square (whether Occupiers stand their ground or not). There's also an outside chance that campers will dismantle things themselves and call it a win. But for the time being, there's no doubt about which side looks justified, and which is making rules up on the fly.

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