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News :: Environment
"Don't put death on Boston's tab; we don't want your Biolab!"
08 May 2007
Modified: 09 May 2007
The Supreme Judicial Court is not due to hear the matter of Boston’s University Biolab (a seven floor Laboratory for National Emerging Infectious Disease already in construction in the Roxbury/South End neighborhoods) but the opponents to the project are not taking a break from letting their representatives know that putting the city at risk is simply not an option.
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As part of a week-long series of events to protest Boston’s Biotechnology International Convention, and more specifically the construction of the Biolab, Biojustice.org staged a die-in on Monday May 7th in front of the Contemporary Art Institute where Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick were hosting a party to wow 100 to 150 biotechs.

“ They can spend $88,000 on dinner but can’t be bothered with meeting with Safetynet? (An organization of residents living within blocks of where the lab is being built) They’ve been trying to meet with the mayor for the past 5 years without success!” said Christy Parden, a resident of Jamaica Plain and member of stopthebiolab.org.

Boston University started construction on it’s Bio safety 4 lab in the spring of 2003- thanks to funding by the National Institute of Health- itself funded by the Federal Department for Defense- to do research on Ebola, Anthrax and Tularemia amongst other diseases. The other thing these unpronounceable viruses have in common? They can all be transmitted through air. So it’s no surprise that environmentalists, scientists, activists and residents joined forces to fight the project.

One of their issues is that “Roxbury holds 8 of the 9 trash transfer station.” Coincidence? They think not. “The city doesn’t seem to respect low-income communities who already bear the costs of environmental pollution. This is another way to burden them unfairly,” said Matt, a Jamaica Plain resident. “My feeling is that we don’t want a biolab in Boston. It’s a respect issue and they are not listening to the community!” he added.

Since Merino and Patrick won’t meet with the community, they decided to go to them. The “Raging Grannies” were part of Monday’s group. Renee Kasinsky, Jean Muller and Sue Gracey have been involved for a few years now as parts of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and protest with songs. Tonight’s choice? “Some meatsy weensy microbes came to Boston U.; they were fat and happy, they multiply and grew; then there was an accident and they all got free; and all you could say was don’t blame me!”
“All surrounding towns have passed resolutions against biolabs. Why not Boston?” asked Sue before adding: “We signed a treaty against these kind of weapons. What’s the use of it?” Gregg, a Cape resident agrees: “Everything is so secretive; they’re saying: “trust us!” but big corporations are known to make mistakes!”

At about 6:20, a siren sounding in the background, some protesters slowly fell to the ground, “dying” from an anthrax outbreak while others in hazmat suits and masks “secured the area” before admitting defeat: “There are no survivors because no evacuation was possible, we should quarantine the dead.” And so far, there is no known evacuation plan in case of a real outbreak.

The proposed “bio-terror lab” as opponents call it, would pose catastrophic health and safety risks to the area as well as “create a potential terrorist target, undermine
Public health by diverting research funds to military purposes, and operate without community or public oversight.” And when probed about job opportunities, another protester simply stated, “ we could hire torturers, that will give people jobs too. Work is an end result not worth it!”

The fact that in January of 2005, three BU employees working in a lower-security lab had infected themselves with a lethal stain of tularemia has not done much to appease the residents. Although they recovered, it shows that accidents are unfortunately unavoidable, because, well, accidents happen.

Should they happen at the costs of the Bostonian residents?


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Photos by Jonathan McIntosh see more from this action here:
http://jonathanmcintosh.smugmug.com/gallery/2817357
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"Don't put death on Boston's tab; we don't want your Biolab!"
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"Don't put death on Boston's tab; we don't want your Biolab!"
Click on image for a larger version

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"Don't put death on Boston's tab; we don't want your Biolab!"

This work licensed under a
Creative Commons license.
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