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Ralliers Allege Police Brutality at Insomnia Cookies Protest

By Antonio Coppola and John P. Finnegan, Crimson Staff Writers

Protesters held a rally Friday to voice complaints of police brutality, claiming that the Cambridge Police Department injured a protester picketing outside of Insomnia Cookies the previous night.

Jason Freedman, the protester, sustained injuries to his face, back, and arms while being arrested by the police, claimed Geoffrey Carens, a Harvard library assistant and Industrial Workers of the World member.

Freedman was arrested on charges of assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct, according to CPD spokesperson Daniel M. Riviello.

Freedman declined to comment Sunday.

Thursday night’s protest was one in a series of monthly pickets at the 65 Mount Auburn St. store that began in August, when several workers fired by the cookie shop made claims of labor rights violations. The protesters urge the company each month to increase wages and let workers unionize.

The picket on Thursday began at approximately 9:30 p.m., according to IWW member Christopher M. Perkins, who was present at the protest.

“We were chanting and holding signs, trying to make the point that Insomnia Cookies is unfair to its workers,” Perkins said.

More than a dozen CPD officers arrived at the scene approximately 20 minutes into the picket, according to Perkins.

Riviello wrote in an emailed statement, “Officers dispatched to this location were attempting to strike a balance between the freedom of speech of the [protesters] and the rights of pedestrians and business to access the public sidewalk.”

According to Perkins, the CPD officers approached a protester holding a megaphone and demanded that he turn it off. The protester complied.

“Nonetheless, they began pushing the person who was holding the microphone,” Perkins said.

Freedman then approached the CPD officers to demand that they not touch the protester with the megaphone, according to Perkins. One of the CPD officers then punched Freedman in the face, he said.

Genevieve Lechat, an IWW member who was also present at the protest, said that she took photos of Freedman as he was being assaulted. The photos, which have been circulated online and over email lists, seem to show a man that Lechat identified as Freedman being overpowered by several officers outside of Insomnia.

Riviello did not respond to a question about a photograph that seemed to show officers subduing Freedman.

Carens, who has previously supported labor movements at Harvard, wrote in an emailed statement that the police threw Freedman on the trunk of a vehicle and then on the ground, “pinning him partially under a parked car and on the curb as they piled on top of him.”

Riviello wrote that CPD was attempting to move protesters “to a more suitable location that would not impact the free and safe flow of pedestrian traffic on a public sidewalk and allow for safe exit/entry to a business when a [protester] became violent, struck a police officer, and was taken into custody.”

“CPD serves to protect the rights of all pedestrians, businesses, and [protesters] by providing for the safety of all to freely move about in public spaces,” Riviello wrote in an emailed statement.

The Student Action Labor Movement has supported the Insomnia workers’ protests. “I wasn’t there, but I think the Cambridge police carried out a hostile and unwarranted attack against people [who] I believe are peaceful,” said SLAM member Gabriel H. Bayard ’15. “I hope IWW and CPD can come to a peaceful resolution to the matter that will protect our right to peaceful protest.”

Freedman was arraigned Friday, according to Riviello. Perkins said that Freedman is being represented by an attorney of the National Lawyers Guild.

Insomnia Cookies could not be reached for comment late Sunday afternoon.

—Nikki D. Erlick contributed reporting to this story.

—Staff writer Antonio Coppola can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @AntonioCoppolaC.

—Staff writer John P. Finnegan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @finneganspake.

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