Mayor Wu, who was the target of the most aggressive and sustained harassment campaign in the history of the city in her first year in office, came under renewed fire last week from some elements of the media. Her alleged offense? Responding to a Boston Police request last summer to compile a list of individuals who were known to be habitual harassers – many of them stalking the mayor daily from her Roslindale home to City Hall and across the city to wherever her public schedule took her.
The manufactured outrage over what one international media outlet irresponsibly termed a “hit list” is the latest overreach by right-leaning critics to frame this mayor in the worst possible light. The Boston Herald, which purposefully nurses a grievance against Wu, has been particularly overwrought in its portrayal, arguing that Wu’s security measures are unwarranted and “Nixonian” in nature.
In doing so, they choose to dismiss what’s so apparent to rational observers: Wu and her family and security detail were being confronted by an onslaught of protest, invective, and, sometimes, physical intimidation that was without precedent in city government— and which required additional measures to keep order, prevent harm, and, contrary to the narrative constructed by her critics, allow for legitimate, peaceful protests to continue.
The notion that sharing intelligence about coordinated, ongoing attempts to confront the mayor and disrupt her official duties is somehow beyond the pale or inappropriate is wildly off-base. Boston Police routinely share intelligence and situational awareness about all manner of potential risks to public officials and the public at-large, especially ahead of events like parades and large gatherings.
This has become a more pressing necessity in recent years, as coordinated attempts to cause disruption in the name of political causes on all sides of the spectrum have been staged in the city. Police came under fierce criticism last summer for not alerting the public to an incursion by white supremacist extremists who trekked into Boston to parade and, in at least one instance, assault one of our citizens. Law enforcement can and should anticipate risks to the public and officials whom they are specifically charged with protecting on a day-to-day basis.
There is no evidence that sharing basic intelligence with Boston Police has in any way hindered the right of dissenters to express their opposition to the mayor or her policies. In fact, two of the most vocal and controversial Wu detractors— Catherine Vitale and Shawn Nelson— will appear on the November ballot as candidates for at-large city council. That reality doesn’t fit neatly for the conspiracy-theorists who would have us believe that these individuals are being persecuted or denied a platform available to any citizen who chooses to run. It’s simply not the case.
What is true is that this mayor – perhaps because of her ethnicity or the fact that she’s our first elected female chief executive – has been subjected to a far more aggressive and protracted effort to shout her down and intimidate her than any of her predecessors in modern history.
To her credit, she has consistently shown courage and mettle in continuing on with her official duties in the face of that. Still, it stands to reason that the men and women charged with protecting her should know – in real time – about the potential threats that may exist. The citizenry of Boston should expect no less.