Since the fall of the Occupy Camp at Dewey Square, which held for 71 days in the shadow of the Boston Federal Reserve building outside of the doors of South Station, a contingent of activists and community members have focused their energy and planning on the debt and budgeting controversy surrounding the MBTA. An offshoot of Occupy Boston called Occupy the MBTA staged demonstrations and organized canvasing missions in which activists and community members rode the subway. Handing out literature and engaging other riders on the impending proposed band-aid solutions, layoffs, service cuts, fare increases, and further debt shuffling to come - as “austerity” apparently becomes more than just a buzz word, but its application.
On Wednesday, April 4th, the MBTA’s Board of Directors voted to adopt a plan dubbed the “third scenario” to close their $161 million deficit in their $1.7 billion annual operating budget for 2013; including service cuts and a 23% average fare increase which many feel affect those in the lower income bracket, students, and elderly at a disproportionally higher rate than other riders with deeper pockets.
Much of the money collected on the fares from 1.3 million daily riders goes to paying off the principal on the T’s $5.6 billion debt. Much of it money loaned to fund the “Big Dig” which has been bought off by JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, as well as others, so that, instead of the T being able to expand and thrive to service more riders as we move forward into the future, it will be forced to scale back. While more and more of the capital is sucked of by the blood sucking vampire squids, yet again.
Cue the occupation, with these already debt-saddled and marginalized groups being, yet again, targeted and raked over the coals by those granted authority to do so - so that some of the largest and most ruthless banks in the world can collect - it begins to makes sense that the sleeping bags and pillows have come out, yet again, and this time, with very clear clear, as well as over arching demands; namely, “No Hikes, No Cuts, No Layoffs!” as the rallying call, but further, and just as serious, “A fully-funded, sustainable, and affordable transportation plan that works for the entire 99% of Massachusetts.”
This is Massachusetts, and as former gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross informed onlookers and activists on Saturday at a teach in at “Camp Charlie”, the name chosen for the Occupy encampment on the State House steps, we're the third richest state in the country. It isn’t that the money isn’t there, it is that we aren’t willing to go and get it from those who have it.
So, why a ten-day protest? Because April 14th is the last day in a ten-day window in which the state legislature can step in and veto the April 4th vote by the MBTA board of directors on the budget. What can you do? Come join us on the steps of the State House to find out - check out the calendar at http://www.occupyboston.org/ for the Camp Charlie event schedule - or, as always, you can contact your state representative and senator.
John Ford is an activist with Occupy Boston.