Protest targets Massachusetts State House access, COVID restrictions



A protester talks to a State Police major after he advised the small group that they were unlawfully assembled during a raucous protest inside the Ashburton Park entryway of the State House on Wednesday. [Sam Doran/SHNS]

Chris Van Buskirk and Matt Murphy

A small group of protesters made their way inside the publicly closed State House Wednesday morning, demanding that the building once again welcome the public nearly two years after it shuttered its doors.

The nine-person group was equipped with bullhorns and whistles, chanting against COVID-related mandates put in place by Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, and other elected officials.

A heavy police presence responded to the small band of protesters. State Police cruisers crowded Bowdoin Street, and the gates to Ashburton Park were locked. Inside the building, Department of Conservation and Recreation rangers and state troopers crowded the entrance as protestors continued to yell, “Hey Baker, leave our kids alone,” “Ban the vaccine, save the kids,” and “Our kids are not lab rats.” One protester said the nine people were not part of a group and were “just citizens that are against these mandates.”

The State House has been closed for 701 days. Democratic legislative leaders, including Senate President Karen Spilka, have signaled in recent weeks that the building could reopen in some capacity as soon as this month. “I remain optimistic that we can invite the public back to the State House sometime this month. In order to open safely, and to protect the health of all of our visitors, staff and members, I believe we must establish a vaccine requirement and ask those entering the State House to wear masks during their visit. Those protocols and the reopening timeline remain under discussion,” Spilka said in a statement Wednesday.

The protest was ongoing as Baker announced from the State House library on the building’s third floor that the statewide mask mandate for schools would end on Feb. 28. Asked about the State House, Baker said he believed it should be open to the public, but deferred to legislative leaders like Spilka and Speaker Ron Mariano. “It’s their building, it’s their call,” Baker said.

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