Statement on HCC – WMass IAC
*STATEMENT by the Western Mass. Organizing Committee of the International Action Center*
Student Antiwar Activists Assaulted By Campus Police
SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN TO REINSTATE STUDENT BARRED FROM COLLEGE
Literally adding insult to injury, campus police at Holyoke (Mass.) Community College have unilaterally imposed an indefinite ban on Charles Peterson, a student maced by a HCC security officer during a September 29 protest of military recruitment at the college. Peterson is subject to immediate arrest for trespassing if he sets foot on school property.
Peterson, 24, of Springfield, Mass., is a member of the HCC Anti-War Coalition (the organization that initiated last Thursday’s counter-recruitment demonstration) and the nationwide Campus Antiwar Network. He was among more than 30 students who intended a peaceful protest of National Guard recruiters on campus that day.
*BACKGROUND ON THE POLICE ASSAULT*
Here are excerpts from a statement that members of the HCC Anti-War Coalition directed to college president William Messner:
“The police assault on the students began when one student standing in front of [HCC Police]Officer Landry held aloft with both hands a hand-lettered, poster board sign reading ‘Cops are hypocrites.’ The sign had no stick attached to it. At that point, Peter Mascaro, head of Campus Security, reached over Officer Landry’s head, snatched the sign from the student’s hands, saying ‘That is inappropriate!’ In surprise the student tried to reach for his sign. At this point the campus police, led by Officer Landry, assaulted the student. Mr. Mascaro ordered Officer Landry, ‘Let him go.’ Officer Landry heatedly replied ‘Are you serious?’ The police officer’s inappropriate grabbing of the sign constituted the battery.
“Three other officers joined Officer Landry in grabbing each of the student’s limbs and hoisted him off the ground. Other students instinctively tried to protect the student being assaulted. When the officers lost their grip on the student, he backed away and raised his hands in the air indicating his non-violent posture. At approximately that moment, Officer Landry maced a different student, one who was not doing anything or making any gestures to do anything at the time.
“Both of the students who were battered by campus police are upstanding members of the HCC community…Several of the activists involved observed that the student who was maced had consistently played a moderating role in the protest.
“As the assault was taking place, approximately a dozen College Republicans were moving forward, pumping their fists in the air, shouting and encouraging the Officers on…Throughout the morning, the campus police force ignored the activities of the College Republicans and were only deployed against the protesters…
“We demand: 1) an immediate, unconditional public apology from the college; 2) a pledge of non-retaliation against the activists involved; 3) a thorough and impartial investigation into these incidents; and finally, 4) that the military recruiters not be allowed back to our college, as their actions and those of the military discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, in violation of Massachusetts law and college policy. Furthermore, the military is engaging in an economic draft against working class and poor people in an attempt to buttress this nation’s illegal war against Iraq.” [For the full text, open http://www.campusantiwar.net/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=102&Itemid=2; also see this follow-up report at http://www.campusantiwar.net/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=105&Itemid=2]
*POLICE HARASSMENT CONTINUES*
The day after this incident, a HCC police sergeant and a Massachusetts state trooper brought a letter from college security to Peterson’s home notifying the student he had been barred from entering school grounds until campus police issued a written revocation of their ban.
*A SEARCHING INQUIRY IS NECESSARY*
The actions of the college administration and police should be the subject of a thorough inquiry. Although HCC’s Policy Guide states that students “have the right to procedural due process in grievance and disciplinary hearings” [Right #6, page 22], in effect, the administration has allowed a unilateral ban by campus police to stand. To date, no member of HCC’s administration has contacted Peterson.
Equally troubling is the conduct and connections of HCC police officer Scott Landry. Landry, who put Peterson in a headlock and sprayed mace into this student’s face, is said to be an advisor to the HCC College Republicans.
*THE CONSEQUENCES FOR CHARLES PETERSON*
Formerly a student at Springfield (Mass.) Technical Community College, Peterson transferred to HCC where he serves as the Student Senate’s Vice President for Academic Affairs. He is also a member of the college’s Learning Communities Committee.
The restraining order by campus police prevents Peterson from legally attending his classes, thereby missing required course work and possibly violating established attendance policies of some faculty members. Prolonged absence could result in Peterson’s removal from class rosters or force his withdrawal from college. Peterson is paid by HCC for his on campus work as a math tutor; he faces a loss of income and risks termination. His continued participation in other college activities (Student Senate, among them) is also in doubt.
*DEMAND PETERSON’S REINSTATEMENT IN GOOD STANDING & THE IMMEDIATE REVOCATION OF THE CAMPUS POLICE BAN *
The Western Mass. Organizing Committee of the International Action Center supports the demands of the HCC Anti-War Coalition and strongly urges all list members to take immediate action. Please phone HCC President William Messner at 413-552-2222 and register your emphatic disapproval of the September 29 assault by campus security, the violation of First Amendement rights, and subsequent denial of due process. (The main number for HCC is 413-552-2600.) Be polite but resolute in being heard: demand to know what the college intends to do about this matter. HCC is a state and federally funded institution; taxpayers have the right to raise questions or voice criticisms.
HELP MAKE THIS EFFORT A NATIONAL CAMPAIGN
by forwarding this email to family members, friends or others throughout the country and ask them to take action. —————————————-
This message sent in solidarity by the
Western Massachusetts Organizing Committee of the
INTERNATIONAL ACTION CENTER