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Peaceful Protestors Arrested - Charged with disturbing a public assembly
The Harvard Crimson
By JAMISON A HILL
Crimson Staff Writer
April 30, 2007

Four undergraduate protesters arrested at the Federal Bureau of Investigation director's speech last Thursday are now saying that their removal from the event was a breach of Harvard policy. And they said their subsequent arrest may have been a violation of their first amendment rights.

The students, who were arrested on charges of disturbing a public assembly, face a hearing before Middlesex County Court on May 10. Michael A. Gould-Wartofsky '07, one of the students, said that they are in close contact with the American Civil Liberties Union and several other civil liberties organizations regarding pro bono legal representation, though they have not yet chosen an attorney.

Gould-Wartofsky, Kelly L. Lee '07, J. Claire Provost '07, and Maura A. Roosevelt '07 were placed under arrest by Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) officers when they staged a protest against federal law enforcement practices during FBI Director Robert S. Mueller's talk at the Institute of Politics.

According to Free Speech Guidelines approved by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 1990, protesters are entitled to a warning before they are removed from an event, except in the case of the threat of physical violence. Gould-Wartofsky, who is also a Crimson editor, said those guidelines were not followed when the students were taken from the forum by HUPD officers.

"We were given no warning," he said. "We were manhandled by plainclothes officers and basically dragged out by force by HUPD."

In response to the allegations, University spokesman Joseph Wrinn wrote in an e-mail, "As a matter of policy when a case is pending, we do not publicly address the specifics of an incident. HUPD operates within the law and school policies and respects the rights of individuals to express their views." HUPD spokesman Steven G. Catalano referred The Crimson to the University's statement last night.

Provost said HUPD informed the four undergraduates of their arrest after removing them without warning, then loaded them into a police car and drove them to the HUPD station, where they were booked.

Gould-Wartofsky said after being registered at the HUPD station, he was taken to a Cambridge Police Department (CPD) station and held in a cell for four to five hours before he posted a $40 bail and was released.

"This was the greatest overreaction I have ever seen at Harvard," he said yesterday. "I have seen a lot of protests, but I have never seen any protesters here treated the way we were treated."

According to Lee, the three female protestors sat in the HUPD wagon for two to three hours before they were booked and then taken to the CPD station, where they were also processed and posted bail.

"There should be space on campus for peaceful dissent, but there isn't," Provost said. "The ironic decision to arrest students exercising their rights to free speech, during a talk on civil liberties, only shows that there is no space for peaceful protest at Harvard."

Provost said that the arrests came as a surprise, saying that she and her fellow protestors had purposely tried to avoid what they saw as any possibility of violating laws or University rules.

"Our protest was carefully planned and part of the careful planning was not to do anything illegal," Provost said.

—Staff writer Jamison A. Hill can be reached at jahill@fas.harvard.edu

Original Text