Chanting Women Vacate Building To Avoid Rumored Bust by Police
About 65 singing, chanting women left 888 Memorial Drive-the Harvard-owned architectural building held as a women's center for over a week-at 2:45 p.m. yesterday, following threats of a police bust.
Bust rumors began circulating from various sources around 1 p.m. yesterday, although the University later denied that any specific police action had been planned. "I know there was nothing going to happen today," Robert Tonis, chief of University Police, said last night.
The women in the building, however-expecting a bust by MDC police at 2:30 p.m.-voted after a one and a half hour meeting to leave the building as a group. They marched out the door in pairs, with faces painted and carrying banners, and headed down Putnam Ave. toward the Square, where they were joined by 100 more chanting women.
As they left, they locked the door of the vacated Women's Center and hung a large paper banner reading "MDC: Sorry We Couldn't Be Here" draping the doorway. A small, handwritten letter in blue ballpoint was tacked on the building. The letter read:
Dear Cambridge Police. Harvard Cops, and MDC: We waited and waited but you never came. Where were you? Hope to see you in the near future. Keep up the good work. Yours in struggle, (signed) Jane Does 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
The signatures refer to Harvard's "Jane Doc" injunction obtained last Tuesday, a temporary court order directing the women to vacate the building immediately.
In Middlesex Superior Court yesterday morning, no action was taken on Harvard's petition for a permanent injunction, but John Harrington, the attorney representing Harvard, told the court that he will file a petition today for a contempt citation against the women.
According to a press statement released at 3:45 p.m. yesterday by Archibald Cox '34, professor of Law and trouble-shooter for the University, "court proceedings will be dropped."
"The whole Harvard-Radcliffe community is relieved to know that the women who occupied 888 Memorial Drive have left," Cox said, adding, "University officials gave no promises to the occupants of the building or their representatives."
Cox refused last night to comment on what sort of court action was planned or on whether or not steps had been taken to identify women in the building.
However, one source revealed last night that the University hired a commercial photographer last week to take photos for identification purposes, but obtained no useable pictures. "According to Cox, they didn't get any pictures even a mother could recognize," the source said.
The source also said that the University has taken the license number of all cars delivering material to the occupied building in the past week, and is investigating whether the car owners can be prosecuted.
"I demand that the police get the bums out of there." Frank W. Tomasello, Superior Court judge, said yesterday morning. "The police shouldn't wait for the authority of the university. This can be done without the necessity of a restraining order."
"It is up to the police to arrest the women if they do not leave in ten minutes from this moment," Tomasello
said. "And if the Cambridge police chief does not do the job they should get another one."
"As far as Women's Liberation goes," Tomasello added, "let my wife come and shovel out my driveway as well as I do-that's when there will be Women's Liberation."
According to Tonis, the Harvard police were completely surprised when the women left of their own accord. "Apparently the judge's order scared them out, that's what I think," he said.
The women were told, however- reportedly by Mary Rowe, wife of Richard R. Rowe, associate dean of the Faculty of Education- that a bust was scheduled for 2:30 p.m., and the rumor was confirmed early yesterday afternoon by an unidentified Harvard policeman.
Rowe said last night she heard the rumor from a Boston Globe reporter. Cox's press statement said only that "the planning of police action, which began in a preliminary way over the weekend, has been suspended," and he declined to comment further.
Had there been a bust, Tonis said, "They would have gone in and broken in as they had to and arrested them all, charged them with trespass, destruction of property, and also interrupting a class, which is a special state law." He added that - despite rumors that the MDC would be called in - "it would have been the Cambridge police with our assistance on the outside."
"I thought they were going to stay until the police took them out," Tonis said. "They fooled me. The police are glad. Everybody is glad."
Another source said that the charges the University is presently considering include breaking-and-entering and theft.
"Our survey shows damage and loss well into the thousands of dollars," said Maurice Kilbridge, dean of the Graduate School of Design, in a statement released at 5:30 p.m. "From an educational standpoint, a particular loss is the breakage of demonstration models used to illustrate principles of materials and structural design."
Kilbridge also charged that "steel lockers containing valuable photographic equipment were forced open and equipment removed from the building." Equipment he listed as missing includes a camera, two lenses, two projectors, four projector slide trays, sound-synchronizer control cards, and small electrical devices.
After the women left the building, a handful of Harvard policemen gathered around the locked door until a Cambridge plainclothesman broke into the building with a crowbar. One Cambridge police detective, afraid the door was sabotaged, warned a Harvard patrolman, "Be careful when you open the door. I wouldn't put anything past those bastards."
Harvard and Cambridge police, accompanied by Daniel Steiner '54, general counsel to the University, entered the building shortly after 3 p.m. They were later joined by several members of the Tactical Patrol Force. No press was permitted inside, on orders of Cox.
Several student bystanders complained that the exclusion of press would permit police to plant evidence in the building, but Cox last night discounted the charge. "The thing was not to have a whole crowd of photographers and others rushing into the building," he said, "and to make tidying up easier."
Both Steiner and Tonis denied a theory that the bust rumor was a University plant. "We had made a statement ready for 16 different contingencies," Steiner said.
Meanwhile, the women- now over 150 strong- marched down Mass Ave. to the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, often used as a meeting place by Bread and Roses, a Cambridge-based women's liberation group. The marchers circled the Square, spray-painting cars, walls, and sidewalks with the biological female symbol and liberation slogans. "The people are the great ocean- they cannot be contained," one banner read.
There were no incidents of outright violence, although several women attempted to wrest cameras away from photographers, fearing the use of pictures by police for identification purposes. One small man wearing a light tan jacket- whose camera was covered with red spray paint in a scuffie - later joined police back at the vacated building.
The marchers weaved in and out of heavy traffic as they made their way to the church, then stood on its steps, yelling war whoops and raising clenched fists. They entered the building around 3:15 p.m.
Inside, the women showed signs of fatigue, but the general mood was spirited and happy. They agreed to meet at 6:30 p.m. tonight for a communal dinner and discussion of further plans. At the time of last night's meeting, the site of tonight's was still undecided.
"Today, those of us who have lived and built a women's center in the Harvard building at 888 Memorial Drive have won a victory," read a press statement the women released at 4:15 p.m. "Our commitment to the Riverside community was met to the satisfaction of those committee spokeswomen we had contact with. Our commitment to a women's center is well on the way to completion.
"We decided to leave the building so that the love and energy generated in the last eight days can be used toward further creation of a center for women rather than in the courtroom with legal hassles," the statement said.