Poverty politics

For those who drive into downtown Boston for the workday – which is a commuting challenge even under normal conditions – the ride home Monday evening made most of them late for dinner. Which was kind of the point.

Protesters, ranging from students to union workers to retirees, took over the streets around Post Office Square on the edges of the Financial District to advocate for a hike in the minimum wage to $15 as well as other social justice issues associated with poverty. They sat down at the intersection of Congress and Federal streets, in the shadow of Bank of America, Fidelity, State Street, and TD Bank headquarters, beginning around 4:30 p.m.

“Don’t worry, people who don’t work for a living,” one lawyer who sat in his car during the protests wrote on social media. “I don’t want to get home after working for a living. Thank you for adding at least an hour onto my ride.”

Their point was to send the message that while the inconvenience of a cold supper may annoy some, millions go without dinner or eat unhealthy foods because they can’t afford anything else. The message, though, much like when protesters cemented themselves into barrels on the Southeast Expressway in support of Black Lives Matter and gummed up the morning commute, or in 2011 when the Occupy Wall Street movement that occupied the Rose Kennedy Greenway for weeks, probably didn’t move the needle much but then, who really was the target audience?

The protest was part of the nationwide Poor People’s Campaign, a renewal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s March in 1968 that was carried out after his assassination. The current protest is a six-week “educational” effort to shine a light on the struggles of those living in poverty and its effect on their health, education, ability to work, and housing. This is the fifth week of the campaign, which will end with a rally in Washington, DC, next week, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the 1968 march on the nation’s capital. Boston wasn’t the only place to ramp up the volume.

Did those who sat in the middle of the Expressway really think making people late for work would open their minds to their argument? Did the the Occupiers really think the 1 percent would open their wallets and free their wealth to be spread around equitably? Did those chanting for three hours in Post Office Square Monday really believe that if the ballot question to raise the minimum wage makes it to voters in November, people sitting in their BMWs and SUVs will check “yes” because they were enlightened beyond their frustration?

The real point was to get attention and that they did, with news helicopters hovering overhead, workers and tourists snapping pictures and taking videos, and leaders of the protest able to get their message out to reporters who otherwise have paid little attention to their efforts.

“We’re sending a message to those that sit in privileged seats in corporate America that someone is hurting our brothers and sisters and it’s gone on far too long,” the Rev. Vernon Walker, co-chair of the Massachusetts campaign, told the Boston Globe. “There are 140 million people suffering from the crippling effects of poverty and there seems not to be a systemic way to address that.”

Never mind that Walker’s 140 million figure for those in poverty, a central part of the national platform, is about 100 million more than the government’s estimate of 45 million. The campaign figures are based on what they say is the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which takes into account the cost of housing, health care, education, goods, and services relative to income. But even that appears to overstate the number. But, again, Walker isn’t speaking to skeptics.

There’s no doubt there’s satisfaction in getting one’s political point across in a highly visible manner and there’s also little doubt that anger over inconvenience quickly subsides (people still drive on the Expressway and walk the Greenway every day). But an exchange overheard by the Globe best sums up what should be remembered.

“You know what’s (expletive) stupid?” one woman who was protesting yelled at a man angry over the inconvenience. “All those people who can’t feed their families.”

Hard to argue with that.

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

An Eagle-Tribune editorial calls on state lawmakers to put an end to state employees cashing out unused sick and vacation time. The paper notes the employees already get paid for that time, and shouldn’t get paid twice for not using the benefit. A Lowell Sun editorial says the school sick-leave policy is bankrupting the school system.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center lost $93,000 in a wire transfer scam but has since recovered $25,000, according to a state auditor’s report. (MassLive)

Bryon Hefner, the estranged husband of former Senate president Stan Rosenberg who faces trial next year on sexual assault charges, stands to collect about $58,000 a year in state pension payments after Rosenberg’s death, based on a filing last week by Rosenberg with the state retirement board. (Boston Globe)

Lawmakers are split on how much the state should pony up in in-lieu-of-tax payments to communities with large amounts of state land. Many of the affected municipalities are watching the debate closely. (Berkshire Eagle)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Boston City Council seems poised to finally pass new rules regulating short-term rentals like Airbnb at its weekly meeting tomorrow. (Boston Globe)

Gisella Collazzo left the South Congregational Church in Springfield after immigration officials said she could stay in the country for at least another year. She sought asylum in the church when she feared she would be deported and stayed there for three months. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump ended his unprecedented meeting in Singapore with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un saying he sees a path for nuclear disarmament “very quickly.” Trump also pledged security guarantees to the rogue nation and agreed to end military exercises with South Korea. (New York Times)

Seattle officials are promising to repeal a tax on large employers to fund programs to combat homelessness after Amazon helped organized efforts to get a repeal measure on the ballot.  (Associated Press)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to cease granting asylum to most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. (National Review)

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, upheld an Ohio law that purges its rolls of infrequent voters, a move that critics say will lead to the disproportionate disenfranchising of poor and minority voters. Trump, tweeting from Singapore, called the decision “Great news!” (Washington Post)

Top White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow has been hospitalized following an apparent heart attack after he returned from the contentious G-7 summit in Canada and made the television rounds Sunday defending President Trump. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

Rep. Michael Capuano, who had earlier decried calls to impeach President Trump as little more than a “political statement” or “witch hunt,” has joined the hunt himself, and touts his more recent votes to support impeachment in an online campaign ad as he battles a primary challenge from left-leaning Boston city councilor Ayanna Pressley. (Boston Globe)

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas says Jay Gonzalez needs Deval Patrick’s support if he is to have a chance of winning the governor’s race against Charlie Baker.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Legalization of recreational marijuana in the state is creating a thicket of challenges for employers around the issues of drug testing. (Boston Globe)

Another hack of a cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea triggered a sharp drop in the value of bitcoins to its lowest level in two years, highlighting the vulnerability of the virtual currency to cyber attacks. (U.S. News & World Report)

EDUCATION

After years of resistance as well as watching some of their students — and the accompanying funds — leave for other districts, the New Bedford School Committee approved a school choice plan to allow outside students to enroll in city schools. (Standard-Times)

Williams College opened a new $66 million science center. (Berkshire Eagle)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Leaders of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are trying to take to heart lessons — and not repeat mistakes — from the 1996 merger of two big Boston hospitals that led to its creation as the hospital prepares for its merger with Lahey Health. (Boston Globe)

Studies find that women with waist measurements of 35 inches or higher and men with waist sizes over 40 inches have dangerous levels of abdominal fat cells that present problems beyond appearance such as increased risks for heart disease, cancer, and dementia. (New York Times)

TRANSPORTATION

T notes: MBTA finding bus drivers hard to hire and keep on the job….delays on the 111 bus ….Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack tells advocates not to fret about West Station decisions being made behind closed doors…and lots of tidbits from Monday’s Fiscal and Management Control Board meeting. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

First came National Grid’s Marcy Reed, calling for a seventh inning stretch in the development of clean energy. That prompted an outpouring of opposition from Joel Wool, Craig Altemose, and Bill Ashley, who nevertheless continued the use of a baseball metaphor. (CommonWealth)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

The history of alcohol sales could provide a roadmap for retail recreational marijuana, including overcoming local opposition where cities and towns once banned booze sales only to open up once they saw the revenue flow. (Wicked Local)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Worcester police are defending their caught-on-video punching of two suspects, saying the men punched them first and tried to take their weapons. (Telegram & Gazette)

The lawyer for convicted child rapist Wayne Chapman slammed Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to revamp the sex offender review system under which his client was due to be released. (Boston Herald) The Supreme Judicial Court has asked Attorney General Maura Healey to file an amicus brief in the case of an appeal seeking to keep Chapman in prison, a move that victim advocate Wendy Murphy says she’s never seen before and that she calls an encouraging development. (Boston Globe)

Federal prosecutors indicted the police chief in Biscayne Park, Florida, and two of his officers on charges they framed a 16-year-old boy for four burglaries so they could maintain the department’s 100 percent clearance rate on crime. (Washington Post)

MEDIA

The Boston Globe dropped its lawsuit against Hilary Sargent. The question remains: Does Sargent have incriminating emails and/or, text messages involving Globe editor Brian McGrory and others at the newspaper? (CommonWealth) Sargent tells the Boston Herald she plans to tell the Globe “everything I know.”