Judge denies ACLU restraining order against Boston over Mass & Cass evictions

BOSTON — A win for the City of Boston in court. A judge denied the ACLU’s efforts to stop the city’s cleanup of the homeless tent city known as Mass and Cass.

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders said both sides gave phenomenal arguments, but she ultimately ruled in favor of the City of Boston. She said if the city halted the tent removals the problem would continue and certainly grow.

“Elaborate protocols are in place already. I think I should proceed very cautiously before imposing additional requirements on the city. Requirements that would ultimately be enforced by a court with little expertise on housing and mental health,” she said.

PREVIOUS: Boston begins removal of tents along Mass & Cass corridor

The ACLU of Massachusetts filed an emergency order on behalf of three homeless clients who had been staying in tents at Mass and Cass, challenging the evictions.

In their preliminary injunction against the city, the ACLU claims its clients were removed from their tents under threat of arrest and their personal belongings destroyed. It also claims there is no process in place to make sure there is better alternative housing available. The ACLU said if they’re kicked out, it would cause irreparable harm.

“We are disappointed the judge denied the temporary restraining order, but we are encouraged by her emphasis on the city continuing to improve its steps on how it’s treating people who they are seeking to displace,” said Ruth Bourquin, an attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts.

The City of Boston, meanwhile, argues it’s the city facing irreparable harm. It cites public health issues, including a rodent infestation, and crime in the area. The city says there were six homicides there this year and 13 sexual assaults. In court, the attorneys for the city said no one will be required to remove their tent before shelter or treatment is made available to them.

>>>MORE: City, state partnering on changes at Mass. and Cass

The ruling came hours after Mayor Michelle Wu told Boston25 News that even if the city won in court, as it did, the city wouldn’t necessarily resume tent removals.

A spokesperson for Mayor Wu said: “Particularly as winter approaches, already unsafe living conditions on the streets will only become more dangerous. Mayor Wu’s team, led by Dr. Monica Bharel, will be urgently working with regional and state partners to take a holistic approach to the public health and housing crisis near the intersection of Mass Ave and Melnea Cass Blvd, with a focus on expanding low-threshold and permanent housing, treatment and support services.”

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