“Cities find these kinds of protests really disruptive," she says, "so it’s natural for them to put a dollar sign on what it’s costing in order to raise opposition to the protesters.” Of course, no one complains about the added city costs of providing security during other kinds of mass public gatherings, she notes. “Had the Red Sox gone to the World Series this year, the cost to the police department could have been way more than these protests.”
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.”