Summer not only brings hot weather and tourists, but in the past few years it also brings the Fake Monk Mafia to Boston. Having been pushed out of Faneuil Hall, the Fake Monks are making their way into the North End and waterfront areas. At the June 10th Neighborhood Council Meeting, members discussed what can be done to stop the Fake Monks from over stepping their bounds.
The dressed panhandlers, also referred to as the Fake Monk Mafia, go up to tourists and ask for money pretending to raise money for religious causes. I was approached by one for the first time earlier this Summer. It is awkward and uncomfortable to interact with a Fake Monk. In my situation, the old woman caught me off guard, slipped beads onto my hand, and gave me a card. I was aware of what was happening, so I attempted to return the beads and card back to the woman, but she insisted I keep them for two dollars. Eventually she took it back, but not after asking me for money several times. I walked away.
President of the Council, John Pregmon, said, “The activity is bleeding into the North End with these individuals.” He stated that the Fake Monks have been seen in Christopher Columbus Park, on the Freedom Trail, Old North Church and the Prado (Paul Revere Mall). Pregmon wants to address the issue before they dominate the streets similar to the what happened at Faneuil Hall as they look for money.
According to Boston Police, the Fake Monks can legally panhandle as long as it is not aggressive harassment. Everyone has a right to free speech and even fake monks have religious freedom.
Another Council member, Tania Green, suggested following a similar campaign that Faneuil Hall had rolled out with the posters. Her idea is to put posters up throughout the North End for tourists to see. She believes if the posters stay up for about a month that the tourists will be prepared with knowledge of the Fake Monks, driving them out of the neighborhood. Green said about the routine, “They’re very careful in how they do it, so we have to be careful as well. Obviously we can’t harass them back, but I think the real measure is to hit them where it hurts and take the money away.”
One concerned North End resident who attended the meeting suggested that a bigger issue to focus on was the level of homelessness in the North End. The resident stated that they believe it is an even bigger deterrent for tourists in the North End.
Watch the video above for the full discussion. What do you think about the Fake Monk Mafia? Have you ever been approached by a Fake Monk? Let us know in the comments below.
The next Neighborhood Council Meeting will be on September 11th, 2017 at the Nazzaro Center at 7 PM. There is no August meeting.