Reason for arrests demanded (1)
(Editor's note: The Tech received copies of the following two letters addressed to President Paul E. Gray '54 and to Chief of Police Anne P. Glavin. Delivered by Laura Sparks, these letters were signed by 126 students, faculty and staff from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, the Department of Architecture, and the Coalition Against Apartheid.)
Letter to Gray:
We were participants in an anti-apartheid rally on Monday, April 9, 1990. The rally was called so that students and faculty could peacefully express their opposition to MIT's policy of continued investment in corporations which do business in South Africa. We are still trying to make sense of the actions and behavior of the MIT administration and police. We believe that the MIT police reacted with unprovoked violence and aggression towards students. Students felt that they were caught up in a series <>
of confrontational police actions that they had not anticipated, did not instigate, and could not control or avoid.
As individuals and as a group, we believe the MIT police acted with disproportionate aggression. We are shocked and saddened that this angry and inappropriate behavior should be the behavior of the people who are supposed to protect our community: the MIT Campus Police.
The aggressive incidents by the police began in response to students who were walking down the sidewalk and carrying a large <>
box with the words "free speech now" on it. Before the students who were carrying the cube could reach the lawn across from 77 Massachusetts Avenue, police pushed these students out into the street and into oncoming traffic. Students tried to move the box out of the street (where a bus was approaching) and onto the lawn. Having set the box down, they tried to get out of the way, but a crowd of police began shoving students.
Several students were grabbed in strangleholds and hurled by the neck. One graduate student was pushed by one police officer, fell onto another, whereupon the student was surrounded, struck and arrested for assault and battery. When officers dismantled the box, they began pushing <>
at groups of disbelieving on-<>
lookers, yelling at people to get back, and grabbing, pushing and striking them when they did not move fast enough. In a previous rally on Friday, a student had his shoulder dislocated. Almost all arrested students suffered minor injuries of some kind, although these injuries were not reported in the press.
What is so disturbing about the protest is that violence and aggression were wholly initiated by police. Police, ostensibly there for crowd control, acted as disturbers of the crowd. Students tried to calm things down or <>
get out of the way while police seemed intent upon spawning a series of unprovoked, unnecessary battles against students. Students were hurt at this rally, <>
and even more people could have been injured, perhaps seriously, given the police decision to push students into traffic as well as the violent lack of self control police displayed. It must be noted that students and faculty were not the only individuals objecting to police behavior. We heard some officers yelling at others to calm down, but the more quiescent officers were not able to restrain those who were pushing and striking students.
At last year's graduation, you wore an armband and spoke of being in solidarity with the students in Tiananmen square. Your words have a hollow ring to those of us who were at the divestment rally on Monday. In your words last spring, you tried to ally yourself with the student demonstrators in the Chinese pro-<>
democracy movement. Through your actions several weeks ago, you have allied yourself with those who suppressed the Chinese movement. Like the leaders in China, you authorized random violence against a crowd of peaceful demonstrators. You used your position as a member of a powerful minority in an attempt to repress a group of students who expressed opinions of the less powerful majority.
Students at the MIT rally were frightened and disturbed by the level of irresponsible violence displayed by people in authority. We are shocked by the attempt to abridge our basic rights. One of the comments most repeated by students who attended the rally was "I have never seen anything like that before." What happened on Monday was not usual or appropriate police behavior, it was sudden, irrational and extreme.
The police actions were visible, immediate manifestations of MIT's flawed and inadequate investment policies. The MIT administration resorted to violence and the abridgement of civil rights to protect an investment policy which sanctions violence and denies the extension of civil rights toward black South Africans. The MIT administration's hysterical and overblown response to the simple construction and siting of an eight foot by eight foot shanty contrasts ironically with the administration's inability to act on an issue of crucial and fundamental importance to millions of South Africans.
The students and faculty have heard the Corporation's arguments regarding the Statement of Principles. We continue to believe that divestment is financially feasible and morally imperative. As students, we contribute tuition money which is being misinvested in corporations that do business in South Africa. As faculty, <>
we attract the additional research funds that provide MIT's financial base. It is within our rights to object to the misuse of this money. It is within our rights to protest against MIT's investment policies and it is within our rights to assemble to articulate our beliefs.
The majority of MIT students and faculty believe that MIT should divest. The minority leaders of MIT, the members of the Corporation disagree. The Corporation's unwillingness to thoughtfully consider the divestment alternative is undemocratic and small-minded. The MIT Corporation's response to calls for divestment has been rigid and unyielding. MIT's response on April 9 was disturbing, unnecessary and of questionable legality.
Those of us who witnessed the event are left with many questions: Why did the MIT police believe that it was within their job responsibilities to attack a calm group of peaceful demonstrators? Who in the MIT administration authorized or encouraged this misuse of power? What kind of steps are you going to take to ensure that the kind of police aggression which occurred on Monday never happens again on the MIT campus? Are you going to sanction the violation of students' basic civil rights? At this year's commencement exercise, will you again make speeches about values, democracy and moral action in the wider world while undermining democracy, ignoring values and suppressing moral action here at MIT?