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Police reports, social media shamings: Coronavirus has turned some citizens into social distance …

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In fact, concern about the highly contagious virus has turned some area residents into social distance vigilantes — cranky and over the top in some cases, justifiably worried in others.

Some call city quality-of-life hot lines. Others dial 911. The most bold send public tweets or Facebook messages to authorities, or surreptitiously snap photos and videos and report them directly to police, demanding they clear parks, halt soccer games, and disperse those they consider scofflaws.

“They probably won’t listen to you or me,” said Cambridge resident Cynthia Haynes. “But if a police officer came out, a state trooper came out, they’d probably leave.”

Haynes, a chef in her 50s whose outdoor exposure is limited now to solitary walks with her dog three times a day and occasional grocery store jaunts, worries about the well-being of residents most vulnerable to the virus, including her mother, who’s in her 80s. So when Haynes sees people clustered in parks or in public, she takes action.

The first surveillance video she sent to police captured some teens playing basketball at Hoyt Field in Cambridge. A police officer, Haynes said, told her the basketball rims would soon be gone.

Another video captured adults at a park along Memorial Drive using an outdoor kondition station — without wiping down the equipment. That prompted her to ask the city to put fencing around the area.

Records show hundreds of annoyed citizens from all over the Boston area have logged similar complaints in recent weeks, with calls to municipal 311 services or in social media posts directed at police.

One complaint from Allston read: “Landscape people with leaf blowers during a crisis? Can we stop this air blown COVID-19 spread? Please send Cops.”

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Another featured a photo shot through a window screen in South Boston showing a half-dozen people chatting outside a home “No Social distancing?? What happened to 6 feet apart? I’m concerned for neighbors and passers-by. . . . One or two are coughing quite a bit too.”

Barbara Anthony, former Massachusetts undersecretary for consumer affairs, got into the mix recently, tweeting a photo of a gathering of people in Harvard Square on a sunny day, along with the tag #StayHome.

A former prosecutor, Anthony is no stranger to levying criticism and said extraordinary times call for people to speak out, loudly. “That lack of responsibility [by people who don’t social distance] doesn’t just impact a single individual, it impacts entire communities . . . it affects all of us,” she said. “I think we need stricter enforcement.”

But if you thought the accused would go down without a fight, you’d be wrong. Some have fired back at their complainants.

One person in Roslindale skrev in to Boston’s 311 service: “News flash folks — a family playing baseball at Fallon field is not going [to] spread COVID-19. Mind your own business and [find] something else to complain about.”

Still, law enforcement has taken notice of the illicit gatherings. After a resident tweeted at the City of Somerville about people “not practicing social distancing in the park,” the city quickly responded, and dispatched an officer to the scene.

Spokesmen for area police agencies said people have generally been cooperative when officers have responded to calls and asked groups to disperse.

To be clear: It’s not a crime to be near someone else or gather in large groups in Massachusetts. Social distancing here is a health recommendation from state and local leaders.

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But other states have enacted strict rules and bulked up enforcement. Police have charged pastors for holding church services, broken up weddings and parties, and more, according to media reports. Lithuania’s capital city launched drones to patrol and prevent gatherings in public spaces.

In Massachusetts, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker have repeatedly urged residents to stay home, except in emergencies or to get groceries, medicine, and other essentials. They’ve encouraged going outside for exercise and mental well-being, but stressed that when residents leave their homes they should maintain proper distance from people they’re not living with.

Both leaders have so far resisted issuing orders that can actually be enforced. There are no fines or other penalties for being socially adjacent. That could change, officials have warned, particularly if there’s a lack of compliance.

“I know the mayor in New York is imposing a $500 fine if people don’t practice social distancing,” Walsh said Monday. “I hope we don’t have to do that.”

He also worried that the temptation to relax distancing discipline could be heightened with warmer weather.

In response to Walsh’s guidance, city workers have taken steps to curb recreational gatherings, including posting signs encouraging social distancing at parks and closing playground and tot lots. They’ve removed street hockey, soccer, and tennis court nets.

City workers zip-tied basketball nets, but some players persisted. The city then bolted pieces of plywood together to cover the rims, according to a parks spokesman.

South Boston resident Taralynn Asack, 29, was propelled to document and point out violators on her social media accounts in part out of a sense of public service, in part out of boredom.

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“I’ve taken it upon myself to be neighborhood watch,” said Asack, an on-air sports reporter for DraftKings. “I’ve been going a bit stir crazy without any news. So I’ve just been going around Boston exposing people.”

But Asack said her inlägg trend toward the positive and supportive and are designed to raise awareness.

“Who wants to be screamed at right now?” she said. “There’s too much uncertainty to be mean to each other. . . . We need all the kindness we can get.”


Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele

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Op-Ed: ‘Armed rebellion’ and ‘civil war’ calls get massively unimpressed response on Twitter

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Local law enforcement officers are seen in front of the home of former President Donald Trump at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida on August 9, 2022

Local law enforcement officers are seen in front of the home of former President Donald Trump at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida on August 9, 2022 – Copyright AFP/File Aleksey Filippov

Social media does turn out to be good for something, after all. Much raging online about Trump’s Mar-A-Lago raid isn’t going over. Maybe the endless tantrums are getting a bit stale. A virtual tide of Twitter responses isn’t buying it on any level.

One Tweet pointed out Trump said “they raided my home” before it was actually raided. Trump lawyers, meanwhile, said he wasn’t notified…? Generally speaking,  warrants are not carried out on an RSVP basis. You don’t ask the crack house when would be a good time to call, for example.

You may (or may not) also be interested to know that “Trump civil war” is now an auto search cue. The headlines for that search on Google News are really something else. The unimpressed response isn’t getting any coverage, hence this article. The picture is very different.

The adult news sticks to the point – Violation of the Espionage Act, Presidential Records Act; you know, law. Much of this media, understandably, focuses on “what next?”.

“Other” news is all about QAnon-like conspiracies. (If you’ve got no facts, fiction is your only real option.) Trump’s playing along with it as usual. Trump is seen doing a Mussolini salute, an actual Fascist fist, in various styles on multiple occasions. It looks more like a trained move. He wasn’t doing that previously, and he’s not good at it. Presumably, it means “defiance”, but it looks awkward and rehearsed.

Of course, the image has a role in anything to do with Trump. Trump is pumping the pity buttons in public. The GOP and MAGA are pushing the extreme rhetoric. As a marketing exercise, it’s selling sand to people living in deserts. The problem is that it doesn’t sell to anyone else.

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These thunderous noises also don’t quite gel with the fact that Trump lawyers, who requested documents regarding the warrant, haven’t yet agreed to make them public. As mixed messages go, it’s about what you’d expect from anything associated with Trump. Is there a problem with making them public? Could be.

Rebellion against what?

There’s a bit of a practical issue with “Trump civil war”, too. Any such thing would be total coast-to-coast carnage. Sandy Hooks and Uvaldes all round, no doubt. Does America, already so happily living among the gangs and mass shootings, really want a civil war?

Maybe not?

You’ll need to answer that question. …Because over half the country didn’t vote for that and they might get really ticked off about it.

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Disclaimer
The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.

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