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MIT Students Lead Human Rights March

By Sarah Y. Keightley
Associate News Editor

In sharp contrast to the recent riots and violence in Los Angeles, hundreds of students from MIT and neighboring universities marched silently from the Student Center to Boston Common yesterday to protest the Rodney King verdict and to unite on behalf of human rights.

Organizers, many of whom live at Chocolate City, hoped the march would be an extension of Friday's on-campus protest, which attracted several hundred participants. Students in yesterday's march, which began at 3:30 p.m., walked silently three abreast to Boston Common. The trip lasted about an hour.

Dale L. Le Febvre '93, one of the protest's coordinators, said the march went well and claimed that the group numbered over a thousand by the time it arrived at the Common. "Everything went smoothly along the walk," he added.

The only incident at the protest was when two protesters chanted for about 20 seconds immediately following the speeches. Le Febvre was pleased that no one joined the chanting.

Route was changed

All four of the police forces involved in planning the demonstration --Boston, Cambridge, Metropolitan District Commission, and MIT Campus Police -- asked the coordinators to change the route of the march. The planned route went down Massachusetts Avenue and continued onto Commonwealth Avenue, while the new route left Massachusetts Avenue to head along Storrow Drive, Le Febvre said.

The route change was significant, Le Febvre said, "but the statement that we wanted to make was still made. In one working day, all this was organized. I cannot emphasize how much the Institute helped." He said it was "amazing" to get all of the official permits and the permission of all the involved police departments in such a limited time.

Anne P. Glavin, chief of Campus Police, said, "The students have done a tremendous job organizing this. The level of cooperation has been outstanding. We've been working together since Friday, and things couldn't be any better. I can't say enough positive things about it."

While Le Febvre was the main speaker at the protest, three other students -- Reginald Parker '92, Kristala L. Jones '94, and Joy Dixon W '92 -- spoke to the crowd at Boston Common. The students presented a proposal for education, employment, and housing reform. The proposal, which organizers plan to bring to the state legislature, was unanimously accepted by the protesters in an informal vote.

The proposal was based on a proposition written by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders in the late 1960s, Le Febvre said. "We updated it for the '90s, but the substance remained pretty much the same."

Thane B. Gauthier '94, who participated in the march, said, "The media and others have focused too much on the violence. ... the real issue is human rights for everyone."

United, silent front

Protest leaders carried signs reading, "We are here to say we do not have to RIOT to show our ANGER. We do not have to SHOUT to be HEARD." They asked marchers to put away other posters they might have had in order to present a united front.

"This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," said Sheldon W. Myrie '95, who participated in the march. "It's hard to get black brothers and sisters to work together on something like this. I hope the government realizes what we're doing here and reverses the [King] decision."

Khary J. Bridgewater '95 said the march "represents our disgust. I hope no one misinterprets the silent protest as, `We're not as enthusiastic as our counterparts in the '60s.' We understand the struggle."

Matt L. Ostrower, a senior at Tufts University, liked the idea of different universities working together as a coalition. "It's the beginning of a student movement," he said.

At the organizational meeting on Saturday, student planners said the rally fell during finals weeks at Boston College and Boston University, meaning most students from those schools would not be able to attend. While individual students attended from other schools, the bulk of the group came from MIT.

Not all satisfied

Some students were not completely satisfied by the march. Keiko Morris, a senior at Harvard, said, "There are fewer people here than I thought. ... I'm not sure how much will get done."

Kevin L. Thomas '94 said, "I'm happy with the march, yet I think we should have been allowed to go through more populated areas of town. A march through downtown would have been more effective."

A woman who said she was affiliated with MIT but did not want to be identified said, "They kept us away from anyone. The city changed the route [because] we would be stopping traffic. There were not enough white people. It is not a black issue -- it's an American issue."

Karen Kaplan, Eva Moy, and Brian Rosenberg contributed to the reporting of this story.