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Hidden with code "Submitted as Feature"
News :: Organizing
MIT charges dropped against Aimee Smith
10 Jul 2004
Aimee Smith, former Cambridge city council candidate, was arrested on MIT graduation day while handing out flyers. The charges against her have been dropped.
MIT charges dropped against Aimee Smith
by Bill Cunningham

A month after being arrested while distributing flyers at MIT, former Green-Rainbow city council candidate Aimee Smith has learned that charges against her have been dropped.
She says she was “not surprised” that her case was dropped, but not satisfied, either: “We are looking into ways to seek redress to insure that MIT will never again use false arrest to silence people.”
Smith was one of four members of the Social Justice Cooperative chased off the sidewalk for handing out flyers on June 4, the morning of MIT’s graduation ceremonies. The others were Katherine Gibson, Suzanne Nguyen, and Anne Pollock.
On the very day of the arrests, the Middlesex County D.A.’s office offered to drop all charges if Smith would pay court costs. She rejected that condition.
MIT President Charles (“Chuck”) Vest had backed away from the case, after receiving protests from students, faculty, and community activists.
On Friday, June 11, a delegation met with Vest in his office, asking that MIT affirm free speech rights and repudiate the commencement day actions of the campus police.
A week later Vest wrote Smith that MIT would seek dismissal of the charges against her. He suggested talks to work out rules for leafleting, but offered no apology for the graduation day actions of campus police.
In a June 29 response to people who had contacted his office about the incident, Vest maintained that “the MIT Police acted properly,” even though “there had been no common understanding about where leafleting could take place.” He said that MIT had asked the D.A.’s office to dismiss charges, and that “they informed us that they would not prosecute….”
There is good reason to doubt that the charges— disorderly conduct and disrupting a school assembly— would have held up in a trial.
City and state laws clearly give citizens the right to circulate on the sidewalks. The only exceptions would appear to be an emergency situation, like a fire, or obstructive loitering, including drunkenness. (Section 9.09.060  Municipal Codes).
Citizens also have the right of "peaceful persuasion", "by printing or otherwise".."unless such persuasion is accompanied by injury or threat of injury" (Mass. General Laws, Chapter 149, Section 24). As long as we don't just stand still and block pedestrians, we may rely on this law.
Nguyen, who was with Smith when she was arrested, has stated, “Neither Aimee nor I were yelling or acting in a violent manner” prior to the arrest. The police say otherwise, but they had no witnesses to corroborate their report.
Smith was not charged with obstructing the sidewalks. Indeed, Gibson recalls that when she and Pollock were ordered by MIT police to stop handing out flyers, “we were standing a few feet away from a vendor on Mass Ave. I think the contrast between the right to ‘free commerce’ and the right to ‘free speech’ speaks volumes about MIT priorities.”

This work is in the public domain