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Hidden with code "Submitted as Feature"
News :: DNC : Organizing
MIT Security Officers Harass & Arrest Leafletter
04 Jun 2004
Former city council candidate Aimee Smith was arrested at MIT Friday morning while handing out flyers to people arriving to attend the day's graduation ceremonies. Smith, a recent alumna of MIT, was with three other members of the Social Justice Cooperative, a recognized campus group.
The group's leafletting was prompted by a scheduled address by Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health. "We weren't chanting or even protesting the speaker," Smith said. "People just took our flyers if they were interested."

Fifteen minutes after they arrived, the leafletters were told by MIT police officers, "You can't do that here." So they moved away from the barricades that had been set up to channel attendees. But this did not satisfy the police.

According to SJC member Anne Pollock, "They said not to distribute anywhere, not on Memorial Dr. or Mass Ave or anywhere on campus." Another SJC member who was present, Suzanne Nguyen, stated, "it was clear they were going after Aimee specifically and even though both of us were doing the same thing - peacefully handing out flyers and asking them why we had to leave - they just cuffed her and started carting her off."

Just before she was seized, Smith says, "one of the cops pushed up against me." She was taken to Cambridge Police headquarters in Central Square and charged with disorderly conduct and disrupting a school assembly.

At her arraignment in Third District Court, Smith was offered a deal: charges would be dropped if she paid court costs. Smith indignantly rejected the idea that court costs might be "the price of exercising first amendment rights."

Defense attorney Dan Beck told the court that his client insisted on a formal apology from MIT. The court set a date of July 7 for a pretrial hearing.

The defendant is an officer of the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party and is active in the New England Committee to Defend Palestine.

Julia Steinberger of MIT Social Justice Cooperative condemned the arrest as a "continuation of the MIT administration turning Commencement into a super-controlled policed event rather than a celebration where everyone in the MIT community is welcome."

"Two years ago," Steinberger recalled, "the head of the World Bank came. Ironically this was Aimee's graduation. MIT called in hundreds of police from five separate police departments against fewer than 50 students and activists. MIT administrators told the students that as far as they were concerned, the 'protesters were the terrorists.' As everyone can see, they still hold this dangerous belief."

The SJC flyer which caused the MIT police such consternation is headed: "Congrats '04! Food for thought while waiting to hear the NIH director," and criticizes NIH funding of a "bioweapons lab that will bring pathogens like Ebola, smallpox, and anthrax into a densely populated Boston neighborhood." The lab project, affiliated with Boston University, has sparked widespread opposition from community groups and some Boston city councilors.

The flyer continues,"NIH prioritizes funding for genomics research with no obvious health benefits over taking steps toward preventative and environmental health, which have the greatest impact on all of us. It prioritizes public/private partnerships that use your tax dollars to pad pharmaceutical profits."
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