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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Professor Arrested

Professor Arrested

A UMass Boston Africana Studies professor got involved in a screaming match with an army recruiter on campus, eventually leading to police tackling and arresting him.

According to several witnesses, a recruiter from the Army National Guard told adjunct professor Anthony Van Der Meer, “You should be shot in the head for doing this,” referring to the passing out of fliers in support of a moment of silence on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination the next day.

“I hope you get shot, too,” replied Van Der Meer, say some witnesses, while others maintain he said, “You shouldn’t say things like that.”

The recruiter then immediately spun around, coming face-to-face with Van Der Meer, as they quickly got involved in a yelling match so heated that several campus police had to intervene. The recruiter then walked away, while Van Der Meer was pushed back by police. “Don’t push me!” he said, and pushed back, according to some eyewitnesses. Others say Van Der Meer never raised his hands, and that the police officer initiated the struggle.

The situation spiraled out of control as more police officers came rushing to the scene on the second floor of the McCormack Building, bringing a struggling Van Der Meer to the ground, ripping his green corduroy jacket, while students looked on in apparent shock. One of the students who was passing out the fliers earlier, Tony Naro, came closer to help the professor and yelled at the police officers. Apparently he got too close, as he got slammed into a wall by an officer.

The remaining military recruiters started packing up shortly after the fighting started, and were gone by the time it was over. According to Donna Neal, assistant director of Student Life, the recruiters have cancelled their next appearance, and have not contacted Student Life about a future one.

While the fight was in progress, Gulet Shirdon, who was collecting money for AIDS orphanages in South Africa at a table across from the recruiters, grabbed one of the water bottles full of coins, and began pounding on it, yelling, “Police Brutality!” which incited the large crowd of students that had gathered by the stairs to do the same.

Another student, Kathy Mello, was soon behind him and yelling, “Free Iraq!” and “Freedom!” They, too got involved in a yelling match, which police had to break up.

“It wasn’t police brutality,” she said afterwards, stating that police had to restrain Van Der Meer as the recruiter was walking away.

A police report could not be obtained at this time, since the matter is still under investigation, according to police officials, who declined to comment. The Boston Globe drew from the police report in their article the next day.

After Van Der Meer was led away by police, a small group of students, still shocked from what had occurred, made their way down to the Department of Public Safety, cramming into the small front desk area, and awaited word of Van Der Meer’s condition.

Many students expressed concerns that police didn’t take their names as witnesses, and felt they were being excluded on purpose. A list of witnesses was organized in short order, and only witnesses were allowed to stay inside the police station, while others remained outside, making posters in support of Van Der Meer, calling local news media, and taking pictures over the din of the repair works being done on the Healey Library stairs.

A small group of students later showed up at Van Der Meer’s arraignment at Dorchester District Court, as well as a press conference later that day, to support him.

The events of the day started snowballing when, earlier that afternoon, Army National Guard recruiters called campus police complaining that senior Tony Naro was handing out fliers right in front of their table. Naro was wearing an “Education, Not Enlistment” shirt at the time.

A representative from Student Life came down to sort it out, since it was up in the air whether or not Naro had the right to be there. Anyone who wants to use one of the tables on the second floor of McCormack must first obtain permission needs to be obtained from Student Life.

Confusion grew as it looked like Naro joined up with the students at a nearby table raising money for AIDS Orphanages in South Africa. Naro called Assistant Director of Student Life Bob Cole on a cell phone, leaving a message on his answering machine. Some witnesses mistakenly thought Naro was calling Van Der Meer, because Van Der Meer showed up minutes after the call.

Tensions were already thick between recruiters and Naro, since Naro had been ejected the week before. Tensions spilled over towards other people, too, as one of the recruiters, who minutes later would spark the conflict between himself and Professor Van Der Meer, accused this reporter of “dramatizing” the situation.

“There is no story here,” he said.