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Cities fret over democracy's costs as 'Occupy Wall Street' stretches on

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But as the Occupy protests continue with no end in sight, the worry lines are deepening on the faces of some city officials.

“I don’t think it’s the activists’ intention to break the public treasury here, but that’s what’s happening,” says Stephen Murphy, Boston City Council president, in a phone interview. “We’re concerned about making the city’s streets, playgrounds, and parks clean and safe, but each of those may wind up taking less because of these protests.”

Boston has budgeted $30 million for police overtime for the fiscal year, he says, but a monthly tab of $2 million from Occupy Boston protests over and above usual crowd-control costs will send the city straight into the red.

Boston Police Department spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll says no official cost figures are available, but citywide concern for the budget is clear and growing. “Naturally, safety is a top priority, but so is being fiscally responsible,” Ms. Driscoll says. “It’s a delicate balance.”

To protesters and their supporters, the whole issue of city cost is specious and wrong-headed.

“If we achieve any of the reforms we’re currently discussing, that amount of money would be massive in comparison to the costs of the protests,” says protester Stephen Squibb, a graduate student at Harvard. “To dwell only on the costs, which have not been verified, would mean there is no hope for this protest to make an impact.”

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