7 from MIT arrested at Kerry protest
By Sean Dougherty
On Tuesday afternoon, six MIT students and an MIT lecturer were arrested for trespassing during an exercise in civil disobedience held in the Boston office of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA) to protest military aid to El Salvador's right-wing government. Six Harvard students and a Tufts student were also arrested.
Most of the students arrested were affiliated with the Central American Solidarity Association, MIT Committee on Central America, or Harvard COCA. Mary Baxter '93, Seth Gordon '91, Ron Francis G, Joshua Freeze '92, Steve Penn G, David Stern '91, and Louise Dunlap, an MIT lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, were all released on $25 bail per person. They were all arraigned on Wednesday, and their trial date was set for Jan. 23. All pleaded not guilty. According to Gordon, the protesters may try to prove that their action was necessary to prevent violations of international human rights law, though a legal strategy for the group has not been formally discussed.
The protest started at 4 pm with as many as 100 street demonstrators carrying signs and chanting slogans such as "Death squad violence, just say no."
The demonstrators demanded that Kerry issue a statement calling for no more US military aid to El Salvador's government and a halt to government bombings near civilian areas in El Salvador. Last year, Kerry supported a bill through the Senate which guaranteed $85 million in US military aid to the Salvadoran government for the current fiscal year.
The arrested persons refused to leave Kerry's office until he made such a statement. Gordon later explained, "The Salvadoran death squads are operating with our money -- US money -- and in our name. We must show Senator Kerry, Congress, and El Salvador that we will not tolerate this misuse of our tax dollars."
At least 30 police took the protesters away in police vans. Most of the demonstrators were cooperative during the arrests, but Freeze had to be carried out by police.
Protesters also voiced concerns that the war in El Salvador will become another Vietnam, that death squad violence will continue and likely increase, and that the rightist government does not represent the people's views.
The demonstrators initiated the protest in response to an anticipated emergency military aid bill to assist El Salvador's government in its fight against the Farabundo Mart'i National Liberation Front (FMLN), an alliance of leftist rebels. Recent reports from the New York Times have indicated that this military aid will most likely be expedited because of calls from the El Salvadoran government to replenish arms supplies.
The United States already gives $1.4 million a day in economic and military aid to El Salvador, and has 55 military advisors stationed there.
The FMLN launched its largest offensive in the decade-old civil war on Saturday night. Rebel forces took large areas in San Salvador and other cities. President Alfredo Cristiani declared a state of siege Monday night, which suspends most personal liberties and gives the government vast powers to detain citizens.
The organizers of the protest, citing the New York Times, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the Red Cross, say that the Salvadoran military is strafing civilian neighborhoods, on the grounds that these neighborhoods are housing the rebels.
Associated Press reports indicate that the government has reclaimed a significant portion of this area, although rebels are still entrenched in some areas of the country. Observers say the rebels have underestimated their civilian support.
Nearly 70 thousand Salvadorans have been killed since the civil war began nearly a decade ago. Many of these deaths have been attributed to the military and government.
Lois Dunlap can answer questions, give quotes: hm-547-6881. Ask her how to get in touch with the official spokespeople. Also talk to David Stern.