MIT Police vs. Vegetables
The Tech’s headline piece on 19 September detailed one alleged ‘excessive force’ incident by the MIT police. Until recently, I would have given the police the benefit of the doubt in such matters. However, several recent incidents have changed my mind.
The most prominent happened this past Friday — ironically the same day as the article — as I was gathering my weekly CSA vegetable distribution from the Red Fire Farm distribution near the Stata Center (for the fifteenth time this summer). What made Friday unusual was the presence of five MIT police vehicles. A display of police force this strong typically indicates that a major incident has occurred: maybe someone was severely injured or had died.
No, five police vehicles and many pugnacious officers were needed to shut down the Red Fire Farm CSA vegetable distribution stand. Quick, stop that lettuce!
This might be understandable had MIT not been given consent many months ago to the operation of the distribution point. But, since the distribution does have the proper clearances and permissions, the logical conclusion is that the Police have a communication problem. This is troublesome because the one department on campus requiring excellent communication is the Police. After all, part of their charge is to respond to life-threatening situations, and without full situational awareness, their response is hindered.
It does not seem proper that an MIT Police communication problem should result in a situation like this. As an eyewitness, I can verify that indeed a large, well-armed Police officer was using a very loud voice to inform the Red Fire Farm volunteer to remove the vegetables. The officer did this without even bothering to first check with someone in his department to see if the vegetable distribution was registered and approved. He simply demanded to see ‘the permit papers,’ in a manner similar to a legendary Gestapo agent. Since the volunteer was unaware of the ‘papers’ requirement, he attempted to reason with the threatening officer.
Luckily, my fellow CSA members and I escaped with our squash, corn, and lettuce without physical harm after a more reasonable police sergeant arrived. Given this excessive response, the MIT Police should apologize for their actions and lack of respect, not only to the Red Fire Farms volunteer, but to the scared CSA members and numerous passersby.
Media at Fault
Dan Yelin correctly points out that the McCain campaign is falsely portraying Barack Obama’s positions and record. When Karl Rove says that McCain has gone “too far,” as he did on Sept. 14, the distortions must be gratuitous indeed.
But the campaign’s actions are not the whole story. For at least one or two days after the publication of a press release or a web-only ad, the media repeat its charges ad nauseum, followed by a token rebuttal from the Obama campaign. Then, for a day or two after that, commentators on television express their amazement at the amount of coverage for something so trivial, while video of the ad is repeated over and over.
Mr. Yelin says that the American electorate is too intelligent and too well-informed to fall for these tactics yet again. Looking at the results of tracking polls for the week after this ad was publicized, I’m afraid I don’t share his optimism.