Boston officials prep for First Night, protest

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and police officials on Tuesday said they would seek to "accommodate" expected protesters at the city's celebration of New Year's Eve, but stressed that the event is "family" oriented and not an appropriate venue for a demonstration.

A police spokesman said they expect a "couple of hundred" protesters who will perform a "die-in," based on social media activity.

The planned protests are in response to the deaths of two unarmed black men during encounters with white police officers in New York and Missouri.

"I just hope they respect that this isn't the event to hold this. We respect their right to protest, but I've done this event for the last 25 years," Police Commissioner William Evans said at a press conference about preparations for Boston's First Night celebration, adding that he has brought his own children to past First Nights and a disruption this year would be a "disservice" to the city.

"We will tolerate any First Amendment rights if they're going to march," he added. "But, you know, clearly there's limitations to what we're going to allow, and if that should dictate making an arrest, we're fully committed to making this a safe event."

Walsh said he hopes to have a dialogue with the protesters. "Protesting is great to get your point across, but at some point a conversation has to happen around what answers people are looking for," Walsh said.

A Facebook group called "First Night Against Police Violence" said they planned to gather at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square at 2:30 p.m., march around the First Night activities, and then return to the library for a "die-in" at 5 p.m.

The First Night celebration, which runs from 1 p.m. to midnight on Wednesday and is expected to draw 1 million people, will be centered in downtown Boston and sponsored by the Highland Street Foundation, Bank of America, State Street Corporation, Verizon, Liberty Mutual, John Hancock and others.

The event, which will take place on Boston Common and at the Hynes Convention Center and Copley Square, costs $1 million to stage, according to city officials.

Evans encouraged attendees to use public transportation when heading to First Night.

Todd Johnson, the MBTA's chief of transportation for operations, said the agency will not collect fares after 8 p.m. and will provide extended hours and "rush hour" level service from 3 p.m. until 2 a.m.

First Night buttons, which cost $10, are available at CVS and Bank of America branches. According to the city, outdoor events are free, but indoor performances require the buttons. All events are funded through a mix of corporate fundraising and the sale of buttons and premium tickets, according to city officials.

First Night started in 1976.


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