Judicial Watch announced on Thursday that it received 525 pages of records from the City of Boston revealing the police department specifying criminal complaints, as opposed to civil citations, for protestors picketing outside of the home of Mayor Michelle Wu over her COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates.
The records were obtained in response to an August 2022 Judicial Watch lawsuit filed under Massachusetts Public Records Law after the city failed to respond to an April request for records concerning the enforcement of City of Boston Ordinance Section 16-63 (An Ordinance Regarding Targeted Residential Picketing) (Judicial Watch, Inc. v City of Boston (No. 2284-cv-01782)).
On January 15, 2022, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu began a program, B Together, which required people to “show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter certain indoor spaces … including indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment venues.” Protests began outside of her home shortly thereafter. The Boston City Council then passed an ordinance that prohibited – and enforced with civil fines – protests outside residences during certain hours. On Monday, April 25, 2022, Shannon Llewellyn was arrested outside the mayor’s home and criminally charged for violating the ordinance that only allowed for civil enforcement such as fines. On September 6, a Boston judge later ruled that Llewellyn was “wrongfully arrested.”
Among the newly obtained records is a February letter to the city councilors from Mayor Wu proposing restrictions on “residential picketing,” in which she declares that the city is committed to protecting the right to protest.
On March 21, former Boston Police Captain Darrin Greeley writes to members of the police department: “NEW POLICY regarding Mayor’s HOUSE. CRIMINAL COMPLAINT – HEARING – DISREGARD THE CIVIL CITATION-THE COURT WANTS CRIMINAL COMPLAINT HEARING.” [Emphasis in original]
On March 23, Lieutenant John Flynn writes to Superintendent Gerard Bailey with the subject line “municipal law” regarding “city ordinances and rights of arrest.” Flynn includes a November 2015 email he wrote explaining how civil ordinance violations can be treated as misdemeanors.
On March 30, Ordinance 16-63 was adopted by the City Council, limiting protesting between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. outside of a residence.
On April 4, five days after the ordinance was adopted, Greeley sends an email to several officers with the subject line “Response for Protest 17 Augustus Ave Roslindale:”
POLICY regarding the Mayor’s HOUSE.
PUT ON BODY CAMERAS!
TARGETED PROTESTING 16.63 – 9:00 PM to 9:00 AM
The District 5 Patrol Supervisor will utilize the sound meter. There is a brand new one in the District 5 DS office. VIOLATION IS ABOVE 70 decimals. PLEASE MAKE SURE IT IS WELL ABOVE 70 decimals AND HAVE IT RECORDED ON AN OFFICERS BODY CAMERA.
The Patrol Supervisor will notify protestors with Officers present with their body cameras on and video the Patrol Supervisor give an oral warning to protestors – READ CITY ORDINANCE TARGETED PROTESTING and to not use amplified devices and if it is before 9:00 AM that it is in violation of City Ordinance 16.63 for protesting before 9:00 AM. If the protestors fail to comply with his oral warning to leave and to not use bull horns, drums etc then please have the officers with their body cameras activated, ask for the protestorsidentification. The COMPLAINT FORM will be FILLED OUT, City Ordinance Violation -16.63 Targeted residential picketing and 16.26.8 – loud amplification device in public space. The Civil hearing will be at West Roxbury District Court. The Patrol Supervisor will make sure the incident report has all elements of violation and tag all body cameras and attempt to identify all suspects. We have a master list of protesters that will help with identification.
If the protestors fail to give identification, then please have them on body camera decline. We will identify through previous encounters and booking photos etc.
West Roxbury Court will handle all civil complaints in Clerks Hearing and issue fines, warnings etc. We will follow the policy and guidelines of the Court and if an arrest is to be determined it will be by the Court for violations of the ordinance.
On April 15, 2022, Officer Paul Joseph of the Internal Affairs Division emails Officer John Ezekiel:
I’m reaching out to you because it is my understanding that you teach the City Ordinance class at the academy. I’m interested in what your thoughts are on if a person could be arrested for a willful violation of the Ordinance regarding targeted residential picketing Chapter XVI Section 16-62: See attached document. Also what chapter and section grants that power to arrest.
Further, regarding the use of an amplified device, what Law grants the power of arrest for that city Ordinance violation.
On April 16, Joseph responds:
Any individual may be arrested for a City of Boston Ordinance violation if they remain in wilful violation of that ordinance. I always recommend that a citation (whether money or warning), report, FIO, be written as proof that you have given the offender a warning. Once that is done and the individual continues to violate that ordinance, they would be considered in wilful violation. Typically you may see the violation again at a future date and again the individual may be subject to arrest. I always talk about reasonableness when deciding how long is too long between violations. Generally a year is a good measuring point.
This particular ordinance allows for an ascending fine, so the officer may use his/her discretion and continue to fine as opposed to making the arrest. Please note that the ordinance must be in presence to cite and/or arrest. That said the knowledge of one, knowledge of all applies. Example: If the individual is cited for their first offence on Friday, April 15, 2022 by PO [police officer] Smith and then commits the same offence in the presence of PO James on Monday, April 18, 2022, and PO James is aware that PO Smith cited the individual on the 15th, then PO James may arrest for this violation or continue to fine.
M.G.L 272 sec. 59 allows a police officer to make an arrest for an ordinance violation.
On April 25, Sgt. Pete McCarthy sends an email to fellow officers:
Just wanted to make sure that you were all aware that a protester was arrested this morning outside the Mayor’s house. Going forward anyone who violates 272/ 59 (Wilful Violation of a City Ordinance) is going to be subject to possible arrest. E-5 wanted us to make sure that the last half and day EDT’s [Emergency Deployment Teams] are aware that they will be called out and will be there in a timely fashion.
“These documents, which had to be forced out through a lawsuit, show that Boston officials were, contrary to law, desperate to jail protestors opposed to Mayor Wu’s draconian vaccine and mask mandates,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Judicial Watch is represented in the case by attorney Ilya I. Feoktistov.