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Locked up along with the protesters they were supposed to be studying, four Harvard students spent Friday night in Miami jail cells after being arrested at last week’s protests against a Western hemisphere free trade zone.
In a trip partially funded by the Institute of Politics (IOP), eight undergraduates accompanied IOP fellow Tom Hayden to study the thousands of demonstrators gathered in Miami to protest an international conference on the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.
The four Harvard students—Jordan Bar Am ’04, Anne G. Beckett ’04, Rachel S. Bloomekatz ’04 and Madeleine S. Elfenbein ’04—were themselves jailed while protesting the arrest of 150 other demonstrators on Thursday.
The IOP, which covered airfare for the trip, had not intended to support students actually participating in the rallies, director Daniel R. Glickman said.
“It was our understanding that the trip would be limited to data collection and observation about contemporary political protest,” Glickman said in a statement.
But one student protester, Colin T. Reardon ’04, said he thought “being part of the protest was an ideal way to observe what was going on” in Miami.
The four seniors were arrested along with about 50 others during a Friday afternoon march. They were released the following morning.
Beckett said that the students were following police instructions to disperse when they were detained.
“Rachel, Maddy [Elfenbein] and I walked in the direction they told us to go,” Beckett said. “I still thought at that point, we’re just going to get out of here.”
But Hayden—who was standing apart from the crowd and was not jailed—said that the police then ordered the protesters onto the sidewalk and then put them into police wagons.
“The [students] didn’t want to run away,” Hayden said. “There was credible worry that they would be shot with plastic or rubber bullets.”
Though no bullets were shot, the protesters said, the police did use pepper spray before they were handcuffed.
“There were two lines of police,” said Reardon, who did sprint away to avoid arrest. “One ran down the street, flanking the protesters, and trapping the entire group.”
Beckett said none of the Harvard students had hoped to get arrested, although they supported the protesters’ cause.
“It’s an agenda being pushed by a small group of people without input from the millions and millions of people who would be impacted,” said Bar Am, who said he had been at the Friday protest for less than five minutes when the police decided to end the demonstration.
Although Bar Am said the protesters dispersed when the police asked them to, Miami-Dade County Police told the Miami Herald that demonstrators were not following police instructions.
“If we didn’t act when we did, it would have been worse,” Miami Police Chief John Timoney told the Associated Press.
Video footage shot by Toussaint G. Losier ’04—who, with his press credentials, managed to avoid arrest—showed a crowd of about twenty-five protesters, facing at least as many officers, with members of the media surrounding the entire group.
The protest Friday started initially in front of the Miami jail where protesters arrested Thursday were being held, but had moved several streets away by the time the Harvard students arrived.
Elfenbein said that “the entire city was paved over with riot cops.”
The four were released after spending the night in jail on bail ranging from $500 to $1,500, which was posted by Hayden and Beckett’s family.
All four were charged with misdemeanors—including criminal mischief and disobeying a police officer—and may have to appear in court in Miami.
Hayden, a former California State Senator and 60’s-era civil rights protester, said he thought the charges would be dropped.
The students were all members of Hayden’s IOP study group, “Activism Now!: Students, Sweatshops and Globalization.”
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