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Fifty-one students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst were arrested by state troopers Monday after taking over a campus administration building to protest CIA recruiters on campus.
The action followed a rally speech by 1960s activist Abbie Hoffman in which the anti-war protester strongly criticized alleged CIA involvement in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Vietnam. Hoffman was also arrested.
Five additional protesters, including Amy Carter, a Brown University student and daughter of former President Jimmy Carter, were arrested after sitting in front of the buses carrying the building-occupiers to jail.
All the protesters yesterday pleaded innocent in Northampton District Court.
After the rally, about 100 students occupied Munson Hall, which houses the university's public relations department. They had earlier attempted to enter the Whitman Administration Building but were blocked by police, who locked and chained the doors. Counter-protesters demonstrated outside the building.
Shortly after the takeover, the university obtained a temporary restraining order from a Superior Court judge barring the protesters from occupying Munson Hall, said Associate Chancellor James Leheny.
After the protesters were informed of the court order, about half, including Carter, left the building, said Paul Wingle, speaker of the Student Senate, the student government.
Five hours after the takeover, about 6:30 p.m., university officials decided to have the remaining protesters removed. At 7 p.m. state troopers wearing helmets and escorted by German shepherds, entered the building, handcuffed the protesters, and removed them from the building.
"At one point, Abbie Hoffman was advising the protesters that even if the university gave in to their demands, they should make up new ones. There was no indication that they'd leave," Leheny said. He also said that the protesters had made threats to destroy property, including computers, furniture, and telephones.
"As a faculty member, I was disappointed to see our students behaving like sheep, with a blind allegiance to an aging hippie or the administration in Washington," Leheny said. "The more people act like cartoon characters, the less likely people are to listen to them."
Campus protesters, however, defended their actions.
"Allowing the CIA on campus was a direct offense to all international students, since the World Court has labelled the CIA as international criminals," said protester William Clay, a Canadian who attends UMass.
Some students also sympathized with the activists. "Perhaps they went a little bit too far, but the administration hasn't given them a chance to express their feelings," said sophomore Pedro M. Pereira. "The students are desperate," he said.
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