The letter is about police violence at Harvard. Briefly, a naked Harvard black student was spotted on campus on April 13, 2018. Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) was called and turfed the call to Cambridge Police Department (CPD).
The cops arrived. Three officers pinned the naked Harvard student to the ground, cuffed him and then proceeded to beat the hell out of him. The Cambridge Police Department while violently assaulting the student prevented student witnesses from recording the incident. Later the officers issued a false report about the facts of the event. They charged the student with indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, assault, and resisting arrest. The letter is in response to the CPD false report.
This event occurred at Harvard in front of black law students and many other Harvard student witnesses. The event was videotaped.
Notable Points: 1. Had the student not been naked would he be alive? The officers might have mistaken a pen in his hand for a weapon and killed him.
- Harvard University Health Services should be aware of police violence towards people of color. To call the cops on an innocent black student or a mentally ill student might be a death sentence. He hadn’t threatened anyone and appeared to be in need mental help. Shouldn’t Harvard University Health Services be on the scene to help/protect the student? Certainly, students pay enough to attend the prestigious Harvard University to feel protected. #policebrutalityatHarvard
The student was naked, cuffed and pinned, why did the Cambridge police officers proceed to inflict violence on him. Was it necessary? How were they threatened? A pool of blood remained in the street after he was transported by ambulance.
The letter from BLSA follows:
Police Brutality at Harvard, April 13, 2018
To: The Harvard University Community and the Broader Cambridge and Boston Community
From: Concerned Members of the Harvard Community
Date: April 14, 2018 ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Firstly, we recognize the broader political implications of this incident for all of our students, and the broader Boston community. However, out of respect for the privacy and needs of the victim and his family at this time, we are not contextualizing this event in the broader instances of police violence.
Secondly, we must address the incorrect reports of the Cambridge Police Department (CPD) released today. On the evening of April 13th, a number of our current Harvard Black Law Students Association (HBLSA) members and admitted students witnessed a brutal instance of police violence at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Waterhouse Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A naked, unarmed Black man, stood still on the median at the center of Massachusetts Avenue across from Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church. He was surrounded by at least four Cambridge Police Department (CPD) officers who, without provocation, lunged at him, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. While on the ground, at least one officer repeatedly punched the student in his torso as he screamed for help. The officers held him to the ground until paramedics arrived, placed him on a stretcher, and put him in the ambulance. A pool of blood remained on the pavement as the ambulance departed. Shortly thereafter, firefighters came and cleaned up the blood with bleach and water.
This victim of police violence happened to be a Harvard student. The University has ample resources that could have, and should have, been mobilized to come to the student’s aid prior to CPD getting involved. Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) were the first to be called for help prior to the arrival of CPD. Instead of sending staff to support the student, HUHS transferred callers to CPD, who then responded as police often do whether cameras are rolling or not — by failing to appropriately respond to the individual needs of the person concerned and resorting to violence unnecessarily and with impunity. By involving CPD, HUHS put this student at great risk of being killed by the police.
Again, we are interested in protecting the privacy of this victim of police violence. We ask that those who know the victim’s name not share it with others, that his name not be included in internal or external conversations about this incident and that, in response to this letter, our conversation be focused on the broader issues of police violence against Black and Brown people and the following demands, and not this particularized incident, which is a symptom of a larger, systemic problem.
For Harvard University, HUHS, and HUPD:
We demand that Harvard University create an internal crisis response team to support students, faculty, and staff that does not involve CPD.
We likewise will require support from the school, fellow students and our instructors to put pressure on the CPD for the following.
For the CPD:
We demand that the officers who assaulted this man while he was naked, fully subdued and bleeding on the ground be investigated and held accountable.
Additionally, we demand that CPD respect the rights of civilians recording police conduct. The CPD policy recognizes that ‘individuals have the right under the First Amendment to openly record police activity in public in a peaceful manner’ and that ‘[o]fficers shall not under any circumstances threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement of activities or operations, or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices . . . .’ It was clear to our Harvard BLSA members that CPD officers were not following these procedures. But for our members’ persistence in defying police attempts to obstruct videotaping this incident, there would be no record.
The conduct of the CPD on the evening of April 13, 2018 was unacceptable. We are reminded, as soon-to-be-graduates of an elite law school that we cannot protect our bodies with our degrees — and that is why we also call our current students and alumni to embrace these demands as inclusive to all Black people, not just Harvardians.
We imagine a world where the most marginalized people in our society are not subject to systematic violations of their bodily autonomy and civil rights, and the CPD has failed the Cambridge community in this regard.
For any further media inquiries regarding this response, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 2017-2018 HBLSA President Jazzmin Carr (601.937.0665) and 2018-2019 HBLSA President Lauren Williams (631.942.5211).
Concerned Members of the Harvard Community