At a news conference Thursday morning to provide an update on the situation at the city's troubled Mass. and Cass encampment, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu cut her public remarks short as several protesters drowned her out after several minutes.
She spoke about 11:30 a.m. at Roxbury's Clifford Park, which neighbors have unofficially closed after multiple requests for the city to address illegal activities taking place there. Chanting "Shame on Wu," the protesters called on her to do more to clean up the area.
"If we're going to do it like this, we are going to pull this down and talk to folks on the side," Wu said in the middle of her remarks, which she did cut short soon afterward.
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She had been discussing the city's latest cleanup effort at Mass. and Cass Wednesday, approximately 10 months after the first one and the city's declaration of a public health crisis, in which city workers shifted unhoused people off a busy street that the mayor said was dangerous for both.
"It's hard to stand here and talk to you all about how much progress that we've made when I know it still feels like the city is still bearing so much, and so visibly shaken and affected by the depth of substance abuse disorder and mental health and homelessness that we are still struggling to meet the demand to serve," Wu said.
The city has a responsibility to both care for its struggling population and to provide "safe and clean" public spaces for other residents, she said.
"We are in a park that belongs to the people of Boston and that we have been extremely hard to try to make sure we are making improvements every day," Wu said at the start of her remarks.
Residents have told NBC10 Boston that Clifford Park became a haven for those displaced from Mass. and Cass, about a quarter mile away from the park.
Neighbors like community activist Domingos DaRosa -- who was at Thursday's news conference -- have long demanded action to address the park's problems. DaRosa told NBC10 Boston he's "found loaded needles, I have found bags of different types of drugs ... used needles, used condoms, human feces" there.
On Wednesday, the Boston Police Department was part of the group that moved people living in tents at the encampment on Southampton Street, apparently around the corner onto Atkinson Street. Smaller trash receptacles were rolled out onto Southampton Street, and crews brought out snow shovels to pick up trash left behind by people moving off the street.
The cleanup began around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and by 11 a.m. the sidewalk was mostly clear of tents and belongings.
The area by the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard has long been an area that people experiencing homelessness stay at in tents. The city has previously called conditions there a public health risk, unsanitary and dangerous.
The encampment on Southhampton Street had once again grown to dozens of people living on the sidewalks, dangerously close to the busy streets, with needles strewn about the area and frequent reports of violence.
Wu visited the area on Wednesday morning to check on the progress.
"We need to do more," she said. "We are in a better place than a year ago when there were very intense encampments and dangerous fires and cold weather and folks living in fortified structures. There are no longer that level of deeply entrenched camps. We continue to work with everyone to remove tents every single day. It is a much better situation, although we still obviously have not solved homelessness and the opiate crisis."
She said part of the reason for Wednesday's move was that there were too many "close calls" with cars nearly hitting people who were out in the street.
"We're really trying to get down to the root causes," Wu said. "The goal is to de-densify the area. The large crowds are not healthy for residents seeking services and treatment here in such a chaotic setting, and it's also not healthy for businesses and residents in the area."
City Councilor Michael Flaherty said violent crime is up 15% in the troubled neighborhood and there have been 34,000 calls for police, fire and EMS.
This is not the first time the city has tried to move people living in tents from the area. About a year ago, the city ordered that people living at the encampment leave. When many residents ended up staying anyways, city crews began a clean up in January, taking down tents and throwing away garbage. Officials at that time said people wouldn't be kicked out without first being offered help twice.
It's unclear at this point what the city's long-term plans are to permanently rehouse people living in the area and help keep it from being overrun with tents again. But Wu stressed the city will need funding from the state and its other partners to help meet this level of demand going forward.