More Pics & More Dispatch: Mass April 4th Protests Against MBTA Service Cuts - Late-Afternoon/Early-Evening Edition

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As it turns out, the forces conspiring against MBTA fare hikes and service cuts weren't joking. They didn't quite turn out a Wisconsin-sized Statehouse occupation as planned, but much hell was raised, and they even got a snap out of a Beacon Hill power player. Here's how it went down, or at least how I saw things unfold . . .

I caught back up with the outburst at around 3:15pm, after filing an update on earlier actions that erupted around today's hearing at the Mass Transportation Building. I left that hubbub early because, as so many folks expected, board members were bound to approve the band-aid plan before them. The real action and excitement wasn't in that stuffy room, which, magically, cannot be penetrated by informed dissent. It was outside on the street, and up on Beacon Hill.

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The afternoon crowd outside the Statehouse was freshly energized by a significant Occupy contingent. Colorful as always, this time they brought a stilted effigy of Charlie, Boston's ubiquitous mascot for anyone who's ever come up short for train fare. It was hardly an exclusive Occupy affair though, as every inch of the local protest spectrum was on the scene in no time. In addition to perpetual protesters and old standbys, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) also joined, this time sporting bright orange “Occupy Transit” tees.

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It doesn't take much to rattle the Statehouse to its horsehair core. As was pointed out to me by a friend who covers the place full-time, it's not unusual for hundreds of nurses, laborers, or seniors to show up en masse. But there's a huge difference between this crowd and those, this multi-front operation and the pointed efforts of organized labor groups acting unilaterally. Today's crowd might not be massive – at most I counted 100 or so gadflies inside the Statehouse – but they're fucking bold. They even brought their own train.

After hollering from the grand staircase for an hour, protesters moved toward the office of House Speaker Bob DeLeo. I laughed; this guy's hardly known for his open door policy. But after a few healthy mic-checks, DeLeo offered to meet with three delegates. It all happened pretty fast, but from what I gather the group laughed it off as a pathetic token gesture, then moved on to governor Deval Patrick, with whom they had even less luck (Minor correction: The speaker was not actually available, but rather it was a group of staffers who made the offer. Three protesters did indeed speak with them, though not without expressing disappointment that DeLeo himself was not available).

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There's more planned for tonight, and numbers outside of the Statehouse only seemed to increase as rush hour set in. But I bet the message won't likely change much from what critics of the MBTA have said through months of hearings: politicians and officials aren't listening. I'll take it one step further, though I'll have to borrow a line from my main man Wesley Snipes. Perhaps it's true that the powers that be aren't listening – their ears have been battered by outraged riders for months now. More important, though, is that they're not hearing what the public has to say. Hearing involves actually processing the noise being spit at you, and perhaps even responding to it.

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