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News ::
Professor Arrested at UMass Boston - more (english)
10 Apr 2003
Modified: 27 Apr 2003
On April 3rd, Professor Anthony Menelik Van Der Meer was thrown to the ground, cuffed, and dragged away by campus police after he "raised nothing but his voice" at a military recruiter who had threatened students and said they should be shot in the head like Martin Luther King.
On Thursday, April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. retreated to his hotel room to work on his upcoming talk on Sunday. His focus had been shifting from mainly civil rights issues to include anti-war and anti-poverty issues. He had titled his sermon “Why America May Go To Hell.” In preparation for dinner, he shaved. At about 6:00, he stepped out onto the hotel balcony, where a bullet ended his life.

The bullet was fired by James Earl Ray from a 30-06 rifle. This rifle was of the same kind that Ray had learned to fire in the army. The 30-06 ammo is an army-specified gauge, designed to exert 2,370 foot-pounds of force at 100 yards. The bullet ripped through Dr. King's jaw, severed his jugular vein, and shattered several vertebrae of his neck and his back. At this point, there was nothing that could be done medically to save his life. The 30-06 is a bullet made for killing, according to the technical specifications of the U.S. Army, and it killed Dr. King that Thursday evening.

On the evening of Thursday, April 3, 2003, Professor Anthony Menelik Van Der Meer was thrown to the ground, manhandled, cuffed, and arrested by police in McCormick Hall at the University of Massachusetts, for verbally defending students who had been accosted and threatened for organizing a moment of silence for the 35th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination.

“He raised nothing but his voice,” said Nadine Hoffman, a journalism student at Emerson College who witnessed the chain of events.

A student, Tony Naro, had been passing out fliers to raise awareness of a moment of silence being organized at noon on April 4, in memory of Dr. King's assassination. He was in the lobby of of McCormick, one of the main academic buildings at UMass Boston.

There was also a table of military recruiters from the National Guard in the same lobby. Naro was passing out the fliers near the recruiters' table, and he wore a t-shirt that said on one side “Education, not enlistment” and on the other side, “Military recruiters off my campus.”

One of the recruiters repeatedly yelled at Naro, calling him, among other things, a “fucking communist.” But the comment that really shocked Naro was along the lines of, “You're organizing for Martin Luther King? You should be shot in the head too.” The recruiters told the student that he did not have a permit to distribute the fliers, and called the campus police. Naro called Professor Van Der Meer, one of his professors.

Other students began to gather around, and then Professor Van Der Meer arrived. According to the report by Hoffman, Professor Van Der Meer quickly arrived and began trying to talk with the recruiters. The discussion grew more heated, and the recruiter told Van Der Meer, “I hope you get shot in the head like Martin Luther King.” Witnesses said that at this point the recruiter turned to the students distributing fliers and screamed, “I hope you all get shot in the head!”

At this point, Van Der Meer and the recruiter were face to face. According to several students present, the recruiter began to push Van Der Meer. Van Der Meer made no attempt to push back, but continued to yell. Campus police officer St. Ives stepped between the two men, and the recruiter left the building, along with the other recruiters.

Professor Van Der Meer continued to yell after the recruiter, ignoring officer St. Ives' order for him to be quiet. At this point, according to witnesses, with no further provocation from Van Der Meer except that he would not be quiet, St. Ives began to push Van Der Meer. Van Der Meer was thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and dragged away by three police officers, his jacket ripped, continuing to yell in defense of his right to speak freely.

When Naro was later asked why he felt it was important to protest military recruitment on campus, he replied that if they are not protested, it would soon become the norm to view recruiters on campus as friendly visitors, and he felt a sense of moral obligation to protest them. He added that the campus is his community, and that “if I feel my community is being invaded by coercive and invasive forces, I will stand up to them.”

When asked if this incident would silence him in any way, he replied, “I am gonna get louder, bolder, and more focused.” He added that he planned to mass produce the shirts that he wore and get them to other campuses, as well as picketing recruiters on campus and off.

When asked about the connection between racism and this incident, Naro, who is white, explained that, although he was the once the police were called to “take care of”, his black professor was the one who was arrested. He added, “He was trying to make it a peaceful situation, for fuck's sake!” He also noted that the initial African-American officer who was dealing with him at first, was “taken off the case” when the white police officer came. Naro explains, “I assumed it was because they feared he'd empathize with me organizing around Dr. King.”

Naro also added that he himself was cuffed for three seconds, and then uncuffed and “tossed aside” when that officer went to join the others and put his knee in Naro's professor's back.

Naro also felt it important to note “the connection to the recruiters and the cops: the authority based relationship. Many cops have been in the military and share a solidarity with them.”

After Van Der Meer had been arrested and removed from the building, students asked officer St. Ives why the recruiter was not arrested. St. Ives responded, “I'm not arresting anyone in the military because I choose not to.”

On Monday, April 7, a forum was held in the same building where this incident occurred.

Professor Van Der Meer's colleague, Professor Jemadari Kamara, said, “The issue before us is a question, I think, of power, power relationships on this campus, and a differential set of interests and perspectives, which are rooted in the question of racism on this campus.”

He continued, “You cannot confront the issues that are at the root cause of this particular incident, which is only a manifestation of a set of relationships that are out of order and have been out of order in this institution.”

About directions for the future, he said, “I would urge us to engage, and commit ourselves to engage in a process of undoing racism and all of its policy consequences and manifestations on this campus. To commit ourselves to work with each other in facilitating this – and I will commit myself, first of all, to be there, to work with you, to try and bring in others, to facilitate this with us.”

He was heckled by a person in the audience, who shouted “That's unfortunate, 'cause we're not racist. Most of the people in this school are not racist.”

Professor Kamara responded to the heckler, “And that is a consequence of what is happening in the broader society here – that kind of a comment.”

He concluded, “Let me simply conclude by saying that we were all assaulted last Thursday, by an assault on one faculty member, to whom this had actually occurred before. But in order for us as a community to help repair ourselves, we have to come together to do that. It's not his responsibility. It's not any single officer's responsibility. It's our collective responsibility to engage in a long-term commitment to repairing ourselves as a community.”

Professor Van Der Meer also spoke. He said, “We need to deal with the issues in terms of the quality of teaching on this campus, the environment of this campus, making sure that teachers, in particular part-time teachers, are paid fairly by this campus, and that workers on this campus are treated well.”

He continued, “But we have to get beyond the 'other' – and this has been my experience on this campus with campus police. There's a level of isolation. You know, I was in my office several years ago, after a seminar on racism, and three officers came into my door and asked me did I work here! And I was so offended I was in tears. I mean tears came to my eyes because I was so offended, you know, that someone said they saw a black man with a baseball cap, and they just felt, you know, that I was in there stealing. And there was an assumption that I was wrong or guilty, and they just stood in my doorway like I was gonna play Superman and run out.”

But he was hopeful nonetheless, despite receiving hateful comments and death threats in his voice mail and email: “So there are some systemic things that we have to address to make this a better community, and we can do it. It's about people's ideas, it's about people's mentality and how they respond. And it's about people who are in denial that these things exist, that racism, you know, exists. ... But I think the community is up to par. I'm overwhelmed by the letters and the phone calls that I've gotten from the people.”

After the panelists spoke, one black student stated, “I hate to tell you that what I experienced on Thursday was something that made me so fearful of even entering these walls, because if this can happen to my professor... This is a man that's teaching me to stand up for what I believe in, go out to masses, break down all stereotypes that have been developed, and then, what? He gets arrested. So this now tells me, as well as a community, that what has happened can happen to us. And this can happen to me. I have children at home; I'm responsible for a household. What am I gonna do in jail? So now you've muted me, because now I'm so fearful of the uplash of what can happen. That's a problem.”

She continued, “There is one thing I want to say to you that is very important. And that's until the white population understands that they're in privileged space, not until then will we have allies who will sit in those forums with Professor Kamara, who will sit in those forums with all of us, and break this down. Because it will not happen until then.”

Professor Van Der Meer, like Dr. King, made strong connections between racism and the current violence being waged on a global scale: “We could get to the root cause of this and move on, because people have their lives. We're having a war. There are people who are dying. ... We have to not only heal here, but we have to heal our society, we have to heal our world, because I'm tired of seeing this death, destruction, and violence again, and tired of having to come here and because of what I look like being assaulted.”

He concluded by referencing a speech delivered by Martin Luther King on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his death by a military-specification bullet: “We have to break the silence. We have to use our mouths as weapons and not use guns.”

In this speech, King reflected, “As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”

-------
This article draws heavily on the report by Nadine Hoffman in the Emerson College Journalism Students' Online News Service.

This article may be extended in the near future.

###
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correction (english)
27 Apr 2003
"The bullet was fired by James Earl Ray from a 30-06 rifle."

http://www.counterpunch.org/valentine02112003.html
Re: Professor Arrested at UMass Boston -
19 Dec 2003
This subject has been well discussed on this forum and I have tried to just accept that we agree to disagree on Professor Van Der Meer's conduct, the Police officers conduct and the appropriateness of the actions on the day of the incident that resulted in the arrest of Mr. Van Der Meer.

I can see that to have a rational discussion of this matter is pointless. I would suggest that those of you who feel Mr. Van Der Meer was treated unfairly and possibly unlawfully by the police should focus on the subject of the conduct of the police on this campus. To continually support Mr. Van Der Meer in his personal battle may not accomplish as much if you do not continue educate yourselves and to voice your opinion on the subject of police conduct on the UMASS Campus.

As I am admittedly an advocate for the Police you might not expect me to invite further scrutiny of the actions, operation, policy and procedures of the Campus police. I have confidence in the results of such scrutiny on the Campus police by those who spend the time and effort to really understand how Policing is done.

There are those of you that would rather complain about matters they know little about than really face the issue of policing and learn what good and bad policing is. I say consider someone with no academic background scrutinizing the staff, budget, administrators (bulger), policies and procedures of the UMASS system and complaining of misuse of authority, misallocation of public funds, and further abuses which result in assaulting the student community with outrages fees, prerequisites and tuition. Anyone who made such allegations about the academic community on and uninformed basis would be revealed as having a hidden agenda.

I ask you, the people on this list to explain to me why I do not hear a defense for Prof. Van Der Meer from those professors and experts in the matters of criminal justice at UMASS. It is my opinion (based on a career of law enforcement) that any criminal justice (CJ) professor that evaluated the elements of what happened the day Mr. Van Der Meer was arrested would not risk their reputation to defend the allegedly unlawful actions of Mr. Van Der Meer. The CJ professors would see the issue as black and white (no pun intended) and conclude the police actions were right.

I plead with the UMASS community to work with the campus police to make our learning experience all that it should be for the benefit of the Students of UMASS. If there is actual misconduct by any employees of UMASS let corrective action be taken. Go to this rally and support Prof. Van Der Meer as I hope you would help anyone who is in trouble and needs moral support. I would further suggest that equal time be given for a conference to address issues between the police, students and the professors. Please, do not let rumors, ignorance, innuendo, and hidden agendas stain this tapestry of intellectual brotherhood. Let this institution of higher learning demonstrate the ideals that all enlightened peoples desire for our world.

I will reiterate my earlier assessment. I know I am not preaching to the choir here but it is important. I support and applaud Professor Van Der Meers right to engage in mediating a dispute between students and the individual national guardmans that did a dishonor to the uniform and the unit by behaving the way he did. I do not support and I deplore the alleged assault on the police officer that had authority, training and duty superior to Professor Van Der Meer in keeping the peace in the dispute between the students and the Individual National Guardsman. In the situation the Police followed correct procedures in using the kind and amount of force upon the students and Professor Van Der Meer when their own personal safety was in question.

You should be focusing on the issues of the campus and not the general gripes of groups that have attached themselves to this petition. Why should a professor be treated any differently than any other citizen? Is the answer that he is an academic and the concept of academic freedom allows him to ignore competent authority on the U mass campus? If there are actual experiences on UMASS campus by students and faculty that call into question the UMASS police conduct and integrity they should each be documented and presented to the police chief or chancellor gora for when that is done progress will be made. Students and faculty should never be put in a situation when they fear the police and if policy needs to be changed to do that then the people need to keep the administration aware of the problem without bringing in radical groups issues that only serve to cloud the original purpose of the petition.


I applaud the efforts of all those mentioned in the mediation of Prof. Van Der Meers criminal charges made against him. As was stated "A judge ratified an agreement (for “pretrial probation”) under which all the charges against Tony Van Der Meer were essentially dropped," (Tony naro) I would agree that this was an amicable resolution. Prof. Van Der Meer is still held responsible for his criminal conduct that went beyond that of a Professor or US Citizen. Pretrial Probation is not essentially dropping charges by any definition (notice the word probation). It simply means responsibility is accepted and the matter is resolve and justice is done.

I would suggest that when Mr. Naro say's "Despite today's victory, the battle for justice is not over." People listen and act. Do not let relations between the student body and the safety and security forces at UMASS Boston deteriorate any further. If Mr. Naro wants to secure what he calls justice he and others should be vigilante of the conduct of the police and address problems when they arise. Waiting for an explosive situation to bring attention to perceived injustices is merely a dangerous ploy and seldom prudent.

Every incidence of perceived injustice as a result of contact with the UMASS Campus police and/or Security should be documented and immediately have grievances submitted to the police chief or designee for redress. If the action or inaction of the police chief does not satisfy the sense for justice the incident can be reported to the asst. dean for student affairs via a form that will compile data and attempt to further satisfy the need for justice. The assistant deans office enacted this Student contact form just this October so you may not be aware of it. The school and police dept. appear to be making every effort be responsive to the students needs.

Mr. Naro your narrative of the incident laughable, but that a dead subject. Use it for what ever political purpose you like while maintaining some integrity. Your ignorance of proper police procedure is going to hurt you in your civil suit if there is one. You connect what Professor Van Der Meer did with the obliteration of Civil Rights by the Patriot Act because the Campus police responded to a disturbance and had taken action. Your obvious sense of conspiracy in this matter is way out of step with reality and does a disservice to those who are truly being violated by the federal government as a result of the tools police have to carry out investigations were expanded as a result of the the Patriot Act.

As for your post-script "Police Lie" Clarification needs to be made. I will make it for you. Not all police lie. Some police do lie. Some Ex-police officers have comitted Perjury. In certain circumstance police are taught to lie and conceal the truth. Before you jump on the conspiracy wagon again let me say an undercover officer lies quite a bit in the performance of his/her duty. The public often approves of these lies by accepting testimony of the undercover officer without reservation. I use to lie to suspects and victims alike. I would tell dying victims they would be OK. I would lie to a suspect to get information or a confession. Take for instance when dealing with a child molester I would lie to them and tell them I understand why they did what the did to little Tony. When in fact I only wanted to develop a rapport with him to get him to talk. So you see Mr. Naro the reason for cops lying are not always sinister and unjustified.

bob