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News :: Human Rights
Charges Against Van Der Meer Dropped
23 Dec 2003
A judge ratified an agreement (for "pre-trial probation") under which all the charges against Tony Van Der Meer were essentially dropped. Last April 3, Van Der Meer - a Black professor of Africana studies at UMass Boston - was assaulted and arrested by campus police after challenging an Army National Guard recruiter on campus who had threatened student Tony Naro as he handed out flyers for an anti-war commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. Van Der Meer tried to mediate the tense situation, but five officers put him under arrest.
BOSTON MASS JUSTICE

****press release****
www.bostonmajustice.org

For further information, contact Tony Naro at 617-365-2990

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - December 17, 2003

Victory in Van Der Meer Case! Government Drops All Charges!

BOSTON - In the post-9/11 Patriot Act environment of growing government attacks on political activism, there haven't been very many victories for the Bill of Rights and civil liberties. Today in Dorchester District Court, after many delays, one such victory unfolded. A judge ratified an agreement (for "pre-trial probation") under which all the charges against Tony Van Der Meer were essentially dropped.

Last April 3, Van Der Meer - a Black professor of Africana studies at UMass Boston - was assaulted and arrested by campus police after challenging an Army National Guard recruiter on campus who had threatened student Tony Naro as he
handed out flyers for an anti-war commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. Van Der Meer objected to the recruiter's remark that the student should be "shot in the head" like Dr. King.

Van Der Meer tried to mediate the tense situation, but what unfolded was chilling: the police told him to "shut the [expletive] up" and wrestled him to the ground. His clothes were ripped and his glasses broken. Five officers put him under arrest and brought him to the campus police headquarters, where he was chained to a wall. Later he was transported to Dorchester District Court, where he was shackled and put in detention awaiting arraignment.

Despite more than 15 witnesses who could testify that, in fact, it was the National Guard recruiter and campus police who were responsible for the altercation and any criminal activity, Van Der Meer was charged with assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. He faced up to five years in prison - until today's victory. While no charges have been brought against any of the others involved, both Van Der Meer and Naro are considering civil action against the National Guard and the UMass campus police for violations of their civil rights.

The assault, battery, and wrongful arrest of Prof. Tony Van Der Meer outraged UMass staff, faculty, and students. A petition and letter- writing campaign demanding the charges be dropped was conducted worldwide. Students and others rallied on campus and packed the courtroom at every pretrial hearing.

This case has raised serious questions about the right to free speech on campus and institutional racism. It has highlighted how even a campus police department, in the new environment, is expected to play a "Homeland Security" role by repressing democratic rights.

The attacks on Van Der Meer and Naro are part of a nationwide, ongoing assault against the right to speak out against war. Despite today's victory, the battle for justice is not over.

- end -
See also:
http://www.bostonmajustice.org

This work is in the public domain.
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