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Anti-Olympics Group Distances Itself From Black Lives Matter

The battle to keep the Olympics out of Boston has become a little contentious after organizers staged a protest outside the mayor’s house.

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WASHINGTON — The most prominent nonprofit protesting the Olympic Games coming to Boston has distanced itself from the efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement, after the group staged a protest outside the home of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

No Boston Olympics, the nonprofit, is perhaps the most prominent group taking a stance against the Olympics, saying the Olympics will be a financial burden on the backs of Massachusetts taxpayers for years to come.

"We were not a part of the Black Lives Matter protest in front of the Mayor's house and do not believe it's the best way to communicate concerns on Boston2024," Kelley Gossett, co-chair of the nonprofit No Boston Olympics said in an email to BuzzFeed News. "We understand many feel frustrated by the potential negative impacts on a host community, and certainly share in that sentiment. However, a disruptive early morning protest does not further that discussion most constructively."

Protesters associated with Black Lives Matter are promising more demonstrations, though. Their efforts this year have included a widely-covered human barricade, which shut down Interstate 93 during morning rush hour in January. The protest at Walsh's house also drew headlines — and the ire of the mayor.

"I don't agree with people going to people's 
houses, protesting. On the street, I have babies, I have seniors. At 4 a.m., I just don't think it's effective," Walsh told the Boston Herald. "I don't think it's a productive way to get your message across to anybody."

"I don't dodge meetings," Walsh went on. "I don't think you win an argument by disrupting everyone on the street or out in the neighborhood."

Protesters with the Black Lives Matter movement organizing in Boston are part of the growing number of people in the city and throughout the region who do not want the Olympic Games to come to Boston. The move to apply public pressure on Walsh comes as the movement is still gaining traction in Boston, a city known for its troubled history with race.

Black Lives Matter Boston said it has been lauded on its efforts from the movement in Ferguson all the way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where amid protest, the Olympic Games will take place next summer.

"Displacement has accompanied every Olympic Games," the Boston movement said in a statement on its Facebook page. "Specifically, we recognize the 30,000 residents made homeless by the Atlanta Centennial Games; we are witnessing in real time the wholesale destruction of Rio de Janeiro's neighborhoods. Likewise, we reject the continued diversion of Boston's limited public funds for private projects when already one-third of Boston's public schools have no physical education and roughly one-third of Boston's children currently live in poverty."

Some observers believe the movement's involvement with the Olympic Games is a diversion for Black Lives Matter, whose focus nationwide has zeroed in on racism and fighting for justice for victims of excessive force by police.

"The idea that the Olympics would be out of the purview of Black Lives Matter completely false," said Daunasia Yancey, lead organizer of the movement in Boston. Yancey said, pointing to the issues of gentrification, police surveillance and displacement that have ravaged black lives. "It's basically a land grab."

Dave Zirin, an author who has written extensively on the Olympic Games' effect on the poor, including Brazil's Dance With the Devil, said public welfare for sports stadiums "has become the substitute for anything resembling an urban policy in this country for the last 25 years."

"They have been used as a tool to uproot poor disproportionately black populations in deindustrializing cities from coast to coast," Zirin wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News. "I've seen it again and again: the people who get hurt when the Olympics come to town are the ones most vulnerable. It doesn't only make sense for the Black Lives Matter movement to target the Olympics. It's a question of stopping the physical repression of the black community in Boston, before the Olympics give a pretext to accelerate those very attacks."

Yancey criticized neutrality and relative silence groups like the Boston chapters of the NAACP National Urban League, organizations which have thus far not opposed the Olympics.

Yancey does not anticipating a meeting with the mayor, but has attacked him on his contradictory communication on whether he read documents submitted by Boston 2024 to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

As for Boston 2024, Yancey said she'd meet with them — "They love to have meetings to say that they had them," — but with one stipulation: to cancel the bid.

"Otherwise I don't know what we're talking about."

Darren Sands is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Darren Sands at darren.sands@buzzfeed.com.

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