The ACLU of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the City of Boston, seeking information about “Operation Clean Sweep,” a police action that took place in early August 2019 near Newmarket Square in Boston. The action resulted in several arrests and displaced many people experiencing homelessness and substance abuse disorders.

On August 1, 2019, a Suffolk County Corrections Officer got into a physical altercation with an individual on Atkinson St. Hours later, as documented in media reports, hordes of police officers descended on the surrounding area, forced people to identify themselves, arrested some for outstanding warrants and drug-related activity, and herded others out of the area. Police conducted similar indiscriminate “sweeps” on August 2 and 6. In the process of these sweeps police confiscated and destroyed personal property, such as wheelchairs, without any warning to those affected.

On August 12, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a public records request to the City of Boston, seeking disclosure about the planning and execution of “Operation Clean Sweep,” as well as any follow-up reporting by law enforcement or City officials. The City failed to provide adequate records within 10 business days, in violation of state law.

On September 17, over a month after the initial public records request, the City of Boston provided a wholly inadequate response, with no arrest records, after-action reports, records of confiscated personal effects, or records of planning or coordination between the City of Boston, the Boston Police Department, the Department of Public Works or Massachusetts State Police. As a result, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed suit, citing concerns about a lack of transparency and disregard for the law by city officials, and requesting that all pertinent records be released.


Ruth Bourquin and Jessica Lewis