Media – Oct 04 – The Republican (Springfield)
Anti-war group seeks an apology
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
By JEANETTE DeFORGE
HOLYOKE – To hear students tell it, they were peacefully exercising their right to free speech when police overreacted, grabbed signs, restrained some and sprayed one with tear gas.
To hear Holyoke Community College officials tell it, students protesting military recruiters violated rules they pledged to follow, blocked exits and endangered student safety.
Students from the Anti War Coalition now want an apology, a ban on military recruiters and an investigation into last week’s protest-gone-wrong.
“We want to stop the campus crackdown on free speech,” Barry S. Scott, a liberal arts major from Northampton, said during a coalition press conference yesterday at city hall.
Scott said he was assaulted by a campus police officer. When student Charles T. Peterson came to his assistance, he was sprayed with tear gas.
During the press conference, students wore stickers saying “Where is Charles?” to protest the fact he was issued a trespass order shortly after the protest, banning him from campus.
College officials have invited Peterson back so he can meet with the student affairs officer. He cannot return to class until the meeting, said Ann B. Garber, the public relations director.
Peterson said he received the invitation verbally, but was concerned he could be arrested on campus unless he receives the request in writing.
“I am a vocal member of the Anti War Coalition and I don’t think they want to hear my liberal ideas,” he said.
That is wrong, Garber said. Campus officials will issue a written invitation if requested.
Officials started investigating the protest and police reaction to it even before the coalition requested it, she said.
The one thing all involved agree on is the protest of Army National Guard recruiters grew so volatile 14 state police officers were called as a precaution.
Before recruiters visited, the coalition asked permission to demonstrate against them, and the campus Republican Club asked to set up a nearby table to show support for the military. Both were given the OK but told to review the student code of conduct, Garber said.
There were about 25 students from the coalition and about 10 from the club. As the morning progressed, the groups started yelling and blocking hallway traffic, she said.
The college is examining its practice of allowing both groups to set up inside in such close proximity to each other and recruiters, Garber said.
But it cannot ban military recruiters; to do so would violate a federal mandate and would mean a loss of more than $7 million in financial aid, she said.