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ONE of the fundamental differences between modern democratic states and their feudal precursors is the role played by police forces. In states like Saudi Arabia, for example, the justice system exists to serve the whims of the rich and the powerful; here, its job is to protect all citizens--regardless of social status--from just these caprices.

In their zeal to protect a Saudi prince encamped at the Charles Hotel, however, Harvard and Cambridge police seem to have forgotten this fundamental distinction. On two occasions this weekend, the police have stood by and watched while the prince's aides physically assaulted Crimson reporters who were attempting to photograph them in a public place, according to the two reporters involved. On another occasion, they ignored a threat made to a reporter's life--again, according to the reporter. Instead of responding to the situation, our reporter said the officers found it more important to escort the Saudi Arabian who made the threat to his limousine.

We recognize that in Saudi Arabia, it may be perfectly acceptable practice for public servants to bully, threaten or even attack private citizens who dare to question the ruling family's authority. Such is not the case here. If the Saudi prince wants to stay in Cambridge, he and his entourage must obey our laws. That means no assaults, and no threats.

But the real problem here is not disregard by the prince's staff for the basic principles of human rights. It is the willingness of American police officers to sell their services for lengthy hotel stays and disregard the protection of citizens and students. We believe that the Cambridge Police Department has failed to uphold its sworn duty to enforce the law, and that its officers have lied by denying that they witnessed an assualt that they had watched from a distance of 10 feet.

As Cambridge residents, we are terrified to think that when we really need them, Cambridge police officers ignore our pleas for protection. As Harvard students, we are just as outraged by our belief that Harvard officers are straining their student-related work by providing this security detail--especially given the recent attacks on students in Cambridge streets over the last few weeks.

And even if the officers involved are working on their own time, they have no excuses for their deliberate refusal to acknowledge attacks on the very students they are supposed to defend. This outrageous dereliction of duty makes a mockery of the law, and Harvard and Cambridge cannot simply ignore it.

We demand that the University and the city immediately suspend its guard detail for the prince and launch a full investigation into the incident, severely disciplining those who stood by. Let Prince Turki use his oil billions to pay for a private security force.

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