MIT community regrets arrestsBy Andrea Lamberti
Students, faculty members and the administration expressed regret that the tensions between demonstrators and police officers resulted in violence and arrests in the pro-divestment demonstrations yesterday and Friday.
The demonstrations, which led to 26 arrests on Friday and six arrests yesterday, were organized by the Coalition Against Apartheid for "educational reasons . . . the goal was to make people aware of some of the situations in South Africa," said Mark A. Smith G, a member of CAA.
Yesterday afternoon's demonstration was also focused on the issue of the right to protest on campus and how to protest peacefully in order to express the views of an organization.
The right to protest became a central issue due to both the refusal of some demonstrators to abandon the shanty on Friday, and the manner of their subsequent removal by the MIT Campus Police.
`Abstract' decision made weeks ago
President Paul E. Gray '54 said yesterday that he was not surprised that the shanty was erected on Friday.
"It was my decision" to remove the shanty, Gray said. It was "not a decision made in real time on Friday but a decision made in weeks before, that if a shanty appeared on the campus, it was not going to stay."
Gray regretted the arrests, but noted that "there was a period of about two-and-a-half hours that [the demonstrators] knew that, in the end, the shanty would not stay."
"There are other important issues that go beyond the shanties and arrests," Gray said.
"One of the things [that] frustrated me years and years ago [is the] folks who have . . . a `divest now' view; they want to have their way -- [not have their say]. They fail to recognize that this is a trustee responsibility, and the trustee responsibility has to reflect the best interests of the institution seen in the large," Gray said.
Walter L. Milne, assistant to the chairman of the Corporation and to the president, was present at Friday's demonstration. "My basic reaction [to the events Friday] was I wish it hadn't had to happen, and then given that people wanted to have a confrontation, I wish it had happened more passively than it had," he said.
Milne said that the demonstration will probably not "have more effect than a general sense that there are views out there opposed to what the present MIT policy is; I think what will have more effect is" the open hearing of the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility, which will take place tomorrow, he said. The committee meets periodically to evaluate MIT's investments.
26 arrested in Friday's protest
During Friday's demonstration, members of the CAA constructed a shanty that would present "an image of the conditions in South Africa" in which most of the people live, Jennifer Y. C. Huang '90 said. At around 4:40 pm, Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '54 told the demonstrators they had 20 minutes to leave the shanty or else they would be arrested for trespassing.
At approximately 5:10 pm, MIT Campus Police began arresting the demonstrators.
"I was really surprised that they used the amount of force that they did," Huang said. She noted that the Campus Police seemed "very angry when they came at" the demonstrators.
Huang, the last to be removed from within the shanty and be arrested on Friday, was the only demonstrator charged with assault and battery on a police officer. She denied kicking the officer, citing the fact that she was "thrown head first into a vehicle" as the reason her foot brushed against the arm of a police officer.
Joshua R. Freeze '91, another demonstrator, said he was "repulsed that the students apparently do not have the right to demonstrate at their own school, and . . . the administration is now trying to make up these rules governing what is acceptable at demonstrations."
Freeze also commented on the manner in which the police arrested the students. "It was very harsh; it was much more violent than it needed to be . . . it was a peaceful demonstration." However, Freeze admitted to resisting arrest because he "thought the arrest orders were illegitimate."
Undergraduate Association President Manish Bapna '91 said "I was very surprised with the brutality that [the] Campus Police inflicted on" the demonstrators. "I believe students have the right to protest . . . some type of guidelines need to be established before conflict arises again," he continued.
Faculty react to protests
In reaction to the events connected with Friday's demonstrations, Faculty Chair Henry D. Jacoby said "I sincerely regret that we came to this stage and that students were arrested; I really regret that the demonstration was pushed to the [extent] of physical confrontation with the Campus Police."
"I feel it's very important to have expression of views on a university campus, [that is the purpose of a university], but there . . . [are] acceptable forms of expression." Jacoby felt the leaders of the demonstration "stepped over the line."
Jacoby felt that the shanty was a physical expression of the demonstrators' attitude. "It was an excellently architectured building, the purpose of which was physical confrontation with the police."
"Once the students decided to build [the shanty], the arrests were inevitable," Jacoby said, because the administration had "decided they were not going to allow the unauthorized structure to stand . . . [and] students were not going to remove it."
Associate Provost Samuel J. Keyser, in a reaction to the demonstration, said "I regret that the circumstances were such that arrests were inevitable; that is to say, the scenario was an inevitable one based on the fact that structure was unauthorized, and [Dickson] had asked it to come down."
Keyser noted that he was aware of Gray's decision that a shanty on campus would not be allowed to stand. Keyser "became concerned after the demonstrations on March 2, that they were rather rough, and I was very much concerned that the future demonstrations, which I fully expected to happen, could end in violence," he said.
Professor of Ocean Engineering J. Kim Vandiver SM '75, a faculty member who witnessed Friday's demonstration, said he was "distressed that this confrontation occurred, because the confrontation was unnecessary." It would not have happened "if everyone on both sides had paid more attention to the history and engaged in more dialogue early on," Vandiver asserted.
If the students had responded with passive civil disobedience, "they would have gained a lot of credibility," Vandiver added.
"Given that the police . . . were doing their job, I think that they did it with reasonable restraint," Vandiver commented. There was "no police brutality," he said.
"A new level of rage"
The demonstration yesterday "reached a new level of rage at the whole situation," Penn S. Loh '90 said. "The police are taking actions against us that we just can't stand by and take," he added.
"Most people were just totally outraged; this is a side of MIT most people never see," Loh said. The demonstrators had attempted to build a portable shanty, one that could be moved if the administration requested it, but the Campus Police blocked them from gaining access to the grassy area where Friday's shanty was located.
Three students were arrested in this confrontation before the protesters decided to take the demonstration to the president's house.
Assistant Professor of Management John Parsons said he was "astonished [at] the way that police tried to arrest people [yesterday]. It became . . . very dangerous as people were running through traffic and being pursued."
"Today was just a melee created by the way they decided to arrest one individual," Parsons said, in reference to the arrest of a Tech photographer.
"What is important is that we thought we had learned a lesson" from the history of shanties in the MIT community in the spring of 1986 and the fall of 1987, Parsons said.
"The lesson was not to rush in with police and to open up channels of discussion, but the administration seems to have chosen to forget these lessons," he continued.
Joanie Seager, a lecturer in the Womens' Studies Program, said "the police used totally unwarranted force to disrupt what was otherwise a very peaceful gathering of students." She claimed that they "provoked people at the rally, by peremptorily arresting people who had no reason to be arrested."
CAA to continue meeting with faculty
In a meeting between Keyser, Jacoby, Associate Dean for Student Affairs James R. Tewhey and members of the CAA last night, coalition members agreed to meet with a wider cross-section of faculty members today at 12 pm.
Keyser and Jacoby agreed to try to set up a meeting between Gray and the coalition members for some time in the future, but approximately 10 members of the Coalition managed to set up a meeting with the president for this morning at 8 am.
They arranged a meeting with Gray by telephone immediately after their meeting with Keyser, Jacoby and Tewhey, who expressed some of their views of the present situation last night.
Jacoby said that the current situation is "a very dangerous" one. "I'm personally very worried about what's next," he said. He said he "cringed when [he] saw that two [Metropolitan Police Commission officers] arrested a photographer, because I thought [the arrest] was so unnecessary."
Jacoby told the members of the CAA that the three "have been looking for some ways to open up a dialogue" between the faculty and administration, and the Coalition.
Members of the Coalition asserted that the basic issue, apart from divestment, is peaceful protest and appropriate police response. Jacoby reported to the students that it got "rough" for the police; they were right "at the edge; these are human beings just like" yourselves, he said.
Throughout the meeting, the students expressed a desire to meet with Gray, because he is "at the top," according to Steven D. Penn G.
Members of the Coalition also reported specific confrontations with the Campus Police, and Christine M. Coffey '93 listed the group's top priorities in a meeting with the president. These include the right to build a shanty, the right to protest, and brutality by the Campus Police.