Boston University members of the Occupy Boston movement set up camp in Marsh Plaza on Tuesday night around 10:30 p.m. after being told that they were not permitted to be in the area by university officials.
The group consisted of about 30 people and several tents, with protesters holding up signs and encouraging passerbys to join the cause. They called the event “Occupy Marsh Plaza” and advocated for the same causes that the larger movement focuses on, including tuition reductions and corporate accountability.
“We’re using this tactic as a wildcat occupation to show student power, to show that we are powerful and that we can occupy space in our university and to use this to propel a conversation forward that’s going to overtake the university, hopefully with a broad general assembly involving all of these other groups to put forth a giant platform with lasting change at this school,” said one protester, a graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences who asked to be anonymous.
In an interview with The Daily Free Press in October, Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore called the Occupy Boston movement an example of “what American democracy is” and expressed support for students participating in protests and political activism, according to an Oct. 13 article in The DFP.
Now that the students have taken to protesting on campus, however, the story seems to be changing. In an interview with The DFP on Wednesday, Elmore said, “We’ve got to make sure we don’t disrupt the flow of the place [Marsh], and the flow of the place is a place where you can reserve it for limited times to do certain kinds of things. The flow of the place is also a lot of ad hoc and spontaneity that goes on there too … and we need to make sure all of that can live side by side. To occupy Marsh, to take it over so that that flow doesn’t happen is a disruption.”
At what point does a protest turn from a demonstration of democracy to a disruption? The whole point of protesting is to disturb the peace in order to communicate a message so that people will take notice. It seems slightly contradictory of the BU administration to encourage student activism and then turn around and ban it from campus. The protesters were not disturbing any sort of event on the Plaza; in fact, very few passersby were even around to notice protesters by the time the BU Police Department showed up to force them to leave.
The statue erected in the middle of the Plaza, “Free at Last,” is there to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and his style of peaceful protesting. It seems incongruous with Dr. King’s message to restrict student protesters today who are continuing in his footsteps.