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 information on the case, please contact Professor Umunna or Professor Sullivan at the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) at (617) 496-8143. For any further media inquiries regarding this response, please contact hblsapresident@gmail.com or 2017-2018 HBLSA President Jazzmin Carr (601.937.0665) and 2018-2019 HBLSA President Lauren Williams (631.942.5211).


The Undersigned Student Organizations from Harvard University and Beyond

The Harvard Black Law Students Association
HGSE QueerEd
Africa Caucus, Harvard Kennedy School
HLS National Lawyers Guild
Harvard Law School’s Mississippi Delta Project
Graduate School of Design African American Student Union
Harvard Journal of Law and Gender
Harvard Law School HALT
Harvard Black Students Association
Harvard African Law Association
Harvard Law School Muslim Law Students Association
Harvard Defenders
Women of Color Collective at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
W.E.B Du Bois Graduate Society
Affinity Group Coalition
HLS Forum
Black Student Ministries at the Memorial Church of Harvard University
Black Graduate Ministries at Harvard
Amanda Lee & Amanda Chan, Student Government President & VP at Harvard Law School
Queer Trans People of Color (HLS QTPOC)
Black Student Health Organization at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Food Law Society of Harvard Law School
Harvard Medical School Class of 2021 Student Council
HLS Lambda
Harvard Graduate School of Education Black Student Union
Racial Justice Coalition at Harvard Medical School
HLS Progressive Jewish Alliance
Campaign for Political Equality at Harvard Law School
Harvard Medical School Student National Medical Association
Student National Medical Association- Harvard Chapter
BLSA at the University at Buffalo School of Law
Chair of the Northeast Black Law Students Association
Harvard Jewish Law Students Association
Fordham University School of Law’s Black Law Students Association
HLS Chapter – American Constitution Society
South Asian Law Students Association (SALSA)
University at Buffalo Black Law Student Association
2018 Class Marshals at Harvard Law School
New York Law School Black Law Students Association
Harambee: Students of African Descent at Harvard Divinity School
Cornell Black Law Students Association
Touro Law Center BLSA
Africa Business Club, A Student Club of Harvard Business School
Albany Law School Black Law Students Association
HBS Leadership and Human Capital Club
Harvard GSE African Education Initiative
Harvard Women’s Law Association
The Organizing Committee of HGSU-UAW
Berkeley Law Students of African Descent
MIT Sloan Black Business Student Association
Georgetown University Law Center, Black Law Students Association
Women’s Student Association at Harvard Business School
Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review
Women of Color Collective at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Harvard Pakistan Student Group
Northwestern Pritzker School of Law BLSA
Harvard Kennedy School Muslim Caucus
Equity and Inclusion Fellows, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Global South Dialogue Harvard Law Student Association
Harvard GSAS Action Coalition (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)
Kuumba Singers of Harvard College
HSPH Muslim Student Association
HSPH Middle East and North Africa Student Association
La Alianza from Harvard Law School
Black Student Health Organization
NYU Law Black allied Law Students Association (BALSA)
HLS Homelessness Coalition
Harvard Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
The African American Student Union, a Student Club of Harvard Business School
HLS Tenant Advocacy Project
Black Management Association, Kellogg School of Management
The Black Law Students Association at The University of Connecticut School of Law
Harvard Asia Law Society
Harvard African Law Association
Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance
MIT GSC Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee (DIS)
Harvard Graduate School of Education Black Student Union
Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project
Hispanic Business Club
MIT Sloan Africa Business Club
HLS Pipeline Parity Project
Harvard Legal Aid Bureau
The Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS) at Stern
Wharton African American MBA Association
Black Business Students Association, Columbia Business School
The Harvard Law School Reparatory Justice Initiative (RJI)
Advocates for Education at Harvard Law School
Black Alumni of Dartmouth Association
Latino Law Students Association at the University of Connecticut
Law Students of African Descent at Berkeley Law
Pace Law School BLSA
Teachers College Student Senate Diversity Committee at Columbia University
University of Virginia School of Law Black Law Students Association
Brooklyn Law School Black Law Students Association
Temple Black Law Students Association
Child and Youth Advocates at Harvard Law School
Black Business Association at the Tepper School of Business
Cornell University SC Johnson Black Graduate Business Association