Police single out blacks in demonstration
I was deeply disturbed by an observation from the edge of the crowd at Friday's divestment demonstration. It was students of color who bore the brunt of the aggressive behavior of the Campus and Metropolitan District Commission Police who were attempting to clear the area in front of the Sloan School elevators.
When a dozen or more large, armed police push into a crowded space to dislodge people who were already there, there was a lot of confusion. Out of my chaotic sensations, I recognized a pattern I had never seen so clearly. One after another, it was black students who were pulled into the main Sloan lobby and more or less wrestled to the floor. The first was stretch-twisted by two police, one on each arm; the second seemed to have officers attacking each limb. Their body-language and the hate and antagonism I felt in it were very hard to describe. In all, I remember five people of color singled out for rough treatment to only two caucasians, one of whom ironically turned out to be a plain clothes officer mistaken for a demonstrator. I would estimate that only 25 percent of the group were people of color.
Demonstrators responded creatively to police violence by moving close, peacefully saying, "Leave our brother alone," "Why are you doing this?" "We are peaceful," and by beginning, in the most frightening moments, to sing or chant, "This is not South Africa."
This is not South Africa, and presumably this is not the Boston of the Stuart case. We suppose ourselves to be an educational institution that takes leadership in rejecting the longstanding racism of the larger society. Friday's experience brought home to me what a long, long way we have to go.
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