Media – Oct 04 – Daily Hampshire Gazette
HOLYOKE – A Holyoke Community College student who was sprayed with pepper spray during an anti-war protest at the school last week, then suspended from campus, maintains that the college is trying to silence him because of his opposition to the war in Iraq.
Charles T. Peterson of Springfield, a sophomore at the school, was held down by security guards and pepper sprayed during a protest Thursday. Peterson and other members of school’s Anti-War Coalition were protesting a visit by military recruiters at the school.
College spokeswoman Anne Garber said the Peterson had to be subdued because he was ”kicking and getting very physical.” Peterson maintains he was only trying to pull back another student who was being pulled away by security guards when he was maced.
”I think the college’s motive is that they don’t like our politics and they don’t like me in particular,” Peterson said at a press conference held at Holyoke City Hall on Monday. ”They’re tired of me being an agitator and they’re trying to make an example of me. But I’m not going to be intimidated. Next time there are recruiters on campus, I’m going to be there on the front line.”
Peterson was joined at the press conference by about a dozen other members of the Anti-War Coalition who demanded an immediate apology from school officials, the lifting of Peterson’s suspension.
A spokeswoman said last week that it is the college’s position that the security officers ”absolutely” acted appropriately in subduing Peterson, and that he has been suspended pending further investigation.
Anti-War Coalition member Shinah Santiago of Westfield said that the students were protesting the recruiters because ”we reject the economic draft that targets working-class students” by promising money for college.
”It’s no accident that this took place at a commuter college in the poorest town in Massachusetts,” said Peterson.
Peterson said campus security officers would not have used pepper spray to break up a protest at a wealthy private college, because ”the children of the rich are allowed to be as loud as they want.”
Anti-War Coalition member Mike O’Neil of West Springfield said members of the group posted information about the incident on several anti-war Web sites and e-mail forums and responses and statements of support ”just immediately started pouring in.”
”It’s really intense,” he said. ”It’s not just peace activists calling in and writing in.” Parents and family members have also been upset that a student was maced on campus, he said.
Ryan Davis can be reached at email@example.com.
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