By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Protests outside elected officials’ homes will lead to actions none of us want

We don’t have official residences for elected leaders in Massachusetts, and that’s a good thing. I like it that Gov. Charlie Baker still lives in Swampscott, where he was once a selectman, and that Boston Mayor Michelle Wu lives in a two-family home in Roslindale with her husband, children and mother.

Sadly, the breakdown of civility in our society is making it untenable. Bullhorn-wielding anti-vaxxers have been protesting outside Wu’s house, and they’re becoming increasingly hateful. Have a look at what Wu tweeted this morning:

It’s happened to Baker, too. Last September, climate-change protesters were arrested after they chained themselves to a pink boat labeled “Climate Emergency” that they had brought with them.

Even if you believe there’s nothing wrong with verbally abusing elected officials outside their homes, it’s certainly not something their neighbors signed up for.

This is going to lead to actions that none of us want. Heavy security is just a start. The Legislature is considering a bill that would outlaw protests within 100 yards of an elected official’s home. That’s almost certainly unconstitutional, as it would ban legally protected speech on public streets and sidewalks.

Or we could see a move toward official residences that are not in residential areas. The city of Boston already owns the Parkman House, near the Statehouse. If I’m remembering correctly, Mayor Kevin White lived there for at least part of his time in office.

The best solution would be for protesters to decide that elected officials’ homes are off limits. I doubt that’s going to happen, though. And so, inevitably, politicians are going to decide they have to remove themselves from normal life even more than they already are. That’s not good for them, or for us.

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  1. Steve Ross

    Sorry, I regard all anti-vaxxers as murderers. They are laughably wrong on the science, and on court precedence interpreting the Constitution on the issue, going back to 1905. Their only weapon is borderline violence… and often actual violence. As much as they hate to be called idiots, they are idiots except for the few who are savvy political operatives creating a wedge issue. They are trying to murder a family member, who is immune-suppressed and requires frequent care from overstretched and stressed hospital staffs.

  2. Nat Green

    Lawyers need to discuss when Constitutionally-protected speech becomes a violation of existing —or proposed— nuisance laws. Difficult, delicate . . . but necessary.

  3. When “Free Speech” becomes harassment, it should be prohibited, just as we decry bullying.

    • Nat

      That’s the question: WHEN does free speech become harassment?

  4. Just to clarify…the environmental protest at Baker’s house was a short term, noisy one-off. However, weekly, for more than a year, Trumpists gathered at the Swampscott Monument just down the street from his house, with a giant camper with loudspeaker blasting “YMCA” (of all things) in opposition to a quiet weekly vigil for Black Lives Matter that I was part off. Every once in a while they would traipse down the street past Charlie’s place. My point is that there is NO equivalence between the actions of the environmentalists and the actions of the Trumpists in Swampscott and, I’ll bet a hundred thousand was spent on special details brought in from all over the area (as far away as Littleton!)…NOT because of BLM and environmentalists.

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