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Police tried to clear protesters before arresting more than 100, body-cam video shows

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Charlie McKenna

Boston Police issued numerous warnings to Emerson College students protesting on the school’s downtown Boston campus overnight Thursday before they began arresting protesters, repeatedly urging students to clear the Boylston Place alleyway they were camped out in, body camera footage provided by the department shows.

The footage, which begins just after 1:30 a.m. Thursday as officers arrive on the school’s campus, shows students loudly chanting “free, free Palestine” as cruisers pull up — with chants audible even as protesters can’t be seen in the videos provided to MassLive. In one video, an officer tells protesters police “don’t want to arrest anybody” and “we support your right to protest.”

But, the officer tells protesters they can not continue to block access to the alleyway — with a group of students arm in arm standing at the entrance, barring the public from entering and exiting without being let through.

The officer tells students he wants them to be able to continue their protest and that he supported what they were trying to do, but said police had been receiving complaints from those living nearby.

“We let it go a while,” the officer says, noting that police were initially slated to respond to the area around 10 p.m. on Wednesday.

“We don’t want anyone to get hurt,” the officer continues, adding “we’re not the enemy on this.”

“We’ve got to open up,” he says.

But, the warnings appeared to go unheeded by the students, who resumed chanting almost as soon as the officer finished speaking, the video shows.

Another officer a few minutes later begins reading the city ordinance barring camping on public property, which was passed by the Boston City Council last October, drafted to address a sprawling encampment in the area of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

The ordinance states in part, “it is unlawful for any person to camp or maintain a campsite or camp materials in or on any public property or in the public right-of-way, including but not limited to any street, sidewalk, school or public park, unless specifically authorized or during a period when shelter is unavailable.”

Boylston Place, the alley where Emerson students had set up tents, is a public way connecting Boylston Street to the state Transportation Building at the other end of the alleyway, college officials said in a statement earlier this week.

It was around 1:45 a.m. by the time police started attempting to forcefully break up the lines of students that had formed on either side of the alley and began making arrests.

In all, 108 protesters were arrested at the college, many of them students.

Sgt. Detective John Boyle, a Boston police spokesman, said four police officers were hurt, one seriously, during the response. No protesters reported any injuries, according to Boyle.

But, The Boston Globe, citing Boston Emergency Medical Services, reported four people were taken to area hospitals after the arrests.

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