© Adam Hunger/ReutersOccupy Boston protesters, shown here at an earlier demonstration, will try to halt eviction from Dewey Square.
A midnight deadline passed on Thursday for Occupy Boston protesters to move from their encampment in the city's financial district, but police did not evict them.

Boston police Supt. William Evans told protesters early Friday that even though Mayor Thomas Menino set a deadline, he did not specify when the camp would be shut down.

"We're continuing to work with (the protesters)... and hopefully come to a good conclusion where we don't have any confrontations and there are no arrests," Evans told reporters.

Menino told the protesters to leave one day after a judge refused to issue a court order that would have barred city officials from removing the protesters.

Demonstrators and their supporters began gathering in Dewey Square hours before the deadline. Occupy groups from Worcester and Providence, R.I., helped swell the ranks, along with university students, a group of Quakers and some veterans, including a Marine in full dress uniform.

About 1,000 people filled the streets around the financial district and a party-like atmosphere reigned as a marching band played music and people sang and danced.

As midnight approached, Occupy Boston members began organizing those demonstrators willing to be arrested, telling them to stay in the encampment and link arms. But the police made no arrests and did not remove any tents.

After protesters chanted "We are the 99 percent" and singing "Solidarity Forever" for several minutes, the band began playing again for the crowd.

About two hours later, some protesters moved a large tent into the middle of a street but police left it there.

Earlier Thursday, Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Menino said that if protesters declined to leave "police would do what is necessary and appropriate after midnight tonight."

Until now, Menino has said the city had no plans to forcibly remove the encampment, but he has become increasingly impatient with the protesters in recent days, saying the Dewey Square occupation has become a public health and safety hazard.

The protesters have been encamped there since Sept. 30, modeling their demonstration after Occupy Wall Street. Protesters estimate between 100 and 150 activists live in the Boston encampment.

The threat of forcible removal leaves Boston poised to join several other cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco, where officials moved to oust protesters.

"I think that the mayor used silence as a tactic to win the court case. He never said anything and during radio interviews he said 'I'm not saying they have to go, I'm just saying that we want the ability to ask them to go,'" said John Ford, a 30-year-old bookstore owner from Plymouth and a member of the encampment. "Now they want to flip us immediately."

Some Occupy Boston members indicated they would not leave voluntarily.

"If it comes down to it, I will be spending the night in jail," said a protester who identified himself as Mike Smith, 23, of Boston. Smith added that he was not surprised by the order.

"They have been trying to get rid of us from day one," he said.

Other protesters were beginning to pack up.

A small library of books that had been housed in one of the tents was neatly stacked in boxes on one end of the encampment. A food tent was also being dismantled. Protesters said they were hoping to load some of their gear onto vans before the end of the day.

Some said they hoped to find other places nearby to set up their tents.

Eric Binder, a 38-year-old massage therapist from New Mexico and Kentucky who has lived in the camp for the past month, said he may try to move his tent to Boston Common.

"Every town, every city should have a place to peaceably assemble," he said. "Where in the city of Boston can we set up our tents?"

Jeffrey Feuer, a Cambridge lawyer representing Occupy Boston, said Thursday that he would hold off filing a motion with Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre asking for a stay of her Wednesday ruling to allow time for an appeal.

Feuer said he wanted to wait until after protesters held their evening meeting.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the National Lawyers Guild-Massachusetts issued a joint statement calling on the city and police to refrain from "heavy-handed crackdowns" if they decide to remove protesters.

McIntyre ruled that although the protesters are exercising their rights to freedom of expression from government interference, the occupation of state land is essentially viewed "as a hostile act" that is neither speech "nor is it immune from criminal prosecution for trespass or other crimes."

"This decision clears the way, but does not order the plaintiffs and other protesters to vacate the site and request permission to set up tents or other equipment for expressive purposes" if Occupy Boston protesters wish to continue to stay at the encampment located on land owned by the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, McIntyre said. "Overnight sleeping and living at Dewey Square are not options under the Conservancy guidelines, however."

At a Dec. 1 hearing, Boston's fire marshal testified that the tent city has numerous serious fire hazards and he feared for the protesters' safety.

McIntyre, in her ruling Wednesday, recognized the central theme of the movement, saying it had brought attention to a perceived increasing disparity of wealth and power in the country.

Source: The Associated Press