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News ::
Protests Stain BIO2000 Conference's Close
31 Mar 2000
Five anti-biotechnology protesters were arrested yesterday after they infiltrated the BIO 2000 convention's closing luncheon and caused a ruckus.

Five anti-biotechnology protesters were arrested yesterday after they infiltrated the BIO 2000 convention's closing luncheon and caused a ruckus.

At the same time, other protesters, silent and dressed in white biohazard safety suits, deposited a mock coffin marked ``biodiversity'' outside the Hynes Convention Center, the site of the five-day industry meeting that ended yesterday.

The two protests were not coordinated, said a leader of the silent vigil, Heather Albert-Knopp, 24, of the Institute for Social Ecology in Plainfield, Vt.

Arrested and charged with trespassing by police for the Hynes incident were Alex Papali, 25, of Watertown; Brian Tokar, 35, of Vermont; Joshua Warren-White, 19, of Brookline; and Matthew Doremus, 24, of Somerville.

A fifth protester, Kristen Schmitz, 20, of California, was also charged with trespassing for creating a disturbance on a shuttle bus intended for conventioneers, said a Boston police spokesman.

``All of them obtained fraudulent or stolen passes with different names on them to gain access,'' said spokesman David Estrada. The five will be arraigned today in Roxbury District Court.

Protesters inside the convention hall made their first move just after actor David Lander, who has multiple sclerosis, had told the crowd of scientists, investors and executives how biotech drugs had helped him battle the illness.

As Lander left the stage, a man from the audience jumped up, grabbed a microphone and ``started shouting'' about the evils of biotech, said Michael Losow, outreach director for the trade group that co-sponsored the meeting.

If the demonstrators wanted to drum up support, they couldn't have chosen a worse time to try to get it, Losow said, because the luncheon featured a series of riveting, emotional talks by people who have been aided by biotech drugs.

One was a Canadian farmer who gave an intensely personal, moving talk about a horrendous, itchy skin problem that plagued him until he took a biotech drug.

``He practically had the place in tears,'' Losow said. It was right after this that another group of protesters intervened.

One vaulted onto a table and tried to convince the audience about the dangers of agriculutural biotech, Losow said. Their speeches were short-lived, however, as audience members, convention security and Boston police escorted them away.
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