Fact Check: City Council President Stephen Murphy Conjures $2 Million Cost For Occupy Boston

As the occupation of Boston’s Kennedy Greenway by members of the 99 Percent Movement continues, a city official is promoting a grossly exaggerated cost for the political protest. Boston City Council President Stephen J. Murphy has appeared multiple times on the local Fox affiliate, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, to claim that the police overtime cost for Occupy Boston will be $2 million this month:

“We’re being told that there will be about two million dollars if it continues through the month of October.” [Fox Boston, 10/12/11]

“I heard from a commander on the scene the other day after the arrests that the costs could exceed about two million dollars in a month, but that’s tentative because you don’t know how many people you’re going to have to deploy.” [Fox Boston, 10/13/11]

Watch Murphy on Fox 25 Boston:

Murphy used the cost estimate to claim that “every individual, every family, and every city” is “economically hurt by this.” “Something is going to give down the line,” Murphy warned, “whether it’s snow plowing, or street cleaning, or educational needs, or summer jobs for kids.”

However, the Boston Police Department and Mayor Tom Menino deny the existence of any estimated cost for Occupy Boston-related activities. “I don’t where that person got that number from and whether that’s based on any fact or not,” media relations officer Eddie Chrispin told ThinkProgress. He said that “no one can stand behind” a cost estimate yet.

Murphy’s fearmongering has been picked up by WBZ-TV, owned by Viacom billionaire Sumner Redstone, and the Boston Herald, owned by former News Corporation executive Patrick Purcell.

That $2 million number is remarkably identical to the figure Mayor Michael Bloomberg has promoted as the cost of Occupy Wall Street police activities in New York City. The claim that Boston could be spending on police overtime at a comparable rate to New York City to handle a vastly smaller protest, which has involved much less confrontation with the police, is bizarre.

“It’s costing a lot of resources for the City of Boston. We do not have an estimate for that,” Menino told WBUR on Tuesday morning. “Mayor Bloomberg says it’s costing his city over $2 million. I haven’t got that estimate of Boston yet.”

“BPD spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said the department had no official estimates yet of the overtime cost,” the Boston Herald reported, even though it trumpeted Murphy’s figure.

Not only is Murphy’s price tag an apparent fiction, there is also the larger question whether there needs to be major police expenditures against peaceable political assembly.

“They don’t need this many police observing us. They don’t need to have helicopters up every night. It’s just burning through money,” said Occupy Boston spokesman Phil Anderson. “We don’t really feel they need to be paying overtime for 200 police in riot gear to rough us up and kick us out of our camp.”

Update:

According to the Boston Police Department, its actions in relation to Occupy Boston over the first two weeks of October have cost $146,000 in overtime for 3056 man-hours, well within the department’s allocated overtime budget. That is about 7 percent of Steve Murphy’s wild estimate for the entire month. Costs would have to increase by more than 1000 percent for the $2 million price tag to come true.